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British Parliamentarian Stephen Crabb On Theresa May's Exit

NOEL KING, HOST:

Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May announced earlier today that she is stepping down. Her announcement comes after months of failed efforts to sketch out a plan for Brexit, the U.K.'s separation from the European Union.

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PRIME MINISTER THERESA MAY: But it is now clear to me that is it - it is in the best interests of the country for a new prime minister to lead that effort. So I am today announcing that I will resign as leader of the Conservative and Unionist Party on Friday, the 7 of June, so that a successor can be chosen.

KING: I am on the line now with Stephen Crabb. He is a member of Parliament in the U.K. He's also a member of May's Conservative Party.

Good morning, sir.

STEPHEN CRABB: Good morning.

KING: So an eventful morning there so far, headed into the afternoon - or in the afternoon, to say the least. In the past, you supported Theresa May. But earlier this week, you said it was time for her to go. What changed your mind?

CRABB: Well, I've supported her staunchly, publicly and in private over the last three years. I've lent efforts to her to help get this Brexit deal through Parliament, and that hasn't worked. And particularly since we had the Easter break for Parliament - as we've come back to Parliament from Easter, it's been absolutely clear, right across the parliamentary party, amongst the different tribes and factions of the party in Parliament, that there just isn't the support there for the prime minister.

And so if we are going to make any progress at all, delivering - not doing Brexit, taking Britain out of the EU, but progress on a whole range of other issues that Parliament should be working on at this time, then I felt we need to turn the page and get a new leader in place. And that's the position that I think MPs right across the party have come to, as well.

KING: What do MPs, yourself included, think is going to happen with Brexit now?

CRABB: Well, I've been clear that simply changing prime minister doesn't change any of the key variables with Brexit. We still face a very complicated and difficult challenge of how we leave the European Union. But how do we do it in a way that doesn't create enormous disruption and damaging impacts on certain key industries and sectors of our economy where the EU is really important - for example, car manufacturing and agriculture farming? So none of the complexities have changed.

But what I want to see - that whoever emerges as the new leader of the party and, therefore, the new prime minister - what I'm looking for them to do is not just have a clear vision of going forward for the country, but have a clear plan, as well. And I think one of the things that Theresa May failed to do was to really pinpoint exactly what she wanted Brexit to mean. Where did she want to actually land the future U.K relationship with the EU? And because of that vagueness, that's part of why we've been zigzagging around, unable to really get a clear plan through. So I'm looking for the next leader to be much more specific about how far or distant we want our future trading relationship to be with the EU. And if we can be specific about the destination point, then I think we've got a better chance of getting a realistic plan through.

KING: Well, let's talk about who may be the new leader. Foreign Minister Boris Johnson has been called something of a front-runner to be the next prime minister. In your mind, is he a good pick? Would he be a good pick?

CRABB: Well, there's a lot of momentum behind Boris Johnson. And, of course, he would appeal to the current public mood in the country, which - although Britain is very divided, there has been a shift amongst the people who want to leave for a much stronger Brexit. So Boris will play to that. But I think there's a whole range of other people who've put their names forward. And what I want to see, above all, is someone with a clear plan.

KING: Stephen Crabb is a member of Parliament in the U.K.

Thank you so much for joining us.

CRABB: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.