United Kingdom opposition Labour fight off Brexit Party to retain parliament seat

British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn and the party's prospective parliamentary candidate Lisa Forbes talk to supporters in the run up to the Peterborough by-election

The race to succeed the Brexit-fouled Theresa May as Conservative party leader and the country's prime minister got underway Saturday in earnest, two days after Britain's governing party suffered one of its worst ever humiliations in a parliamentary by-election.

May is quitting after failing to get her Brexit deal approved and the prospect of a "no-deal" exit has become central to the battle to replace her, with the success of Farage's party pressing them to strike tough lines on Britain's departure.

The final two candidates will be put to a postal ballot of about 160,000 Conservative members, with the victor announced the week of July 22.

Forbes, who backed remaining in the European Union in 2016 but said she respects the result of the referendum, said May's successor should restart government talks with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn which failed to find a way through the deadlock on Brexit.

The Peterborough election saw the Tories slump to third place, behind victors Labour and the Brexit Party, in a seat which had traditionally been a Conservative-Labour marginal.

She spent the day in her constituency west of London.

Whether the European Union can maintain this hard-line stance remains to be seen but regardless of who becomes the next United Kingdom leader, it seems certain they will be tackling the future relationship with Europe under the guise of the Withdrawal Agreement already drawn up under Mrs May.

Brexit Party candidate Mike Greene gestures as newly elected Labour Party MP Lisa Forbes speaks at the by-election count centre in Peterborough, England.

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The formal process to decide who will be the next occupant of Number 10 kicks off Monday when nominations open among Conservative MPs wanting to bid for the top job in British politics.

The contest should be completed in the week commencing July 22. She has reportedly said she will not officially resign as prime minister until someone is chosen who she believes has the support of the House of Commons.

Some Conservative lawmakers and activists fear the party is in the grips of an existential crisis and could be permanently sundered by Brexit - easily split in two.

Meanwhile Conservative chairman Brandon Lewis has admitted that the party is going through a "difficult process" as two Tory MPs, including one Cabinet minister, are under pressure from local members to not stand for re-election.

May was forced to strike a deal for support with Northern Ireland's pro-Brexit Democratic Unionist Party, and since then has struggled to keep her party and its allies together.

The contest to replace her has been heating up for weeks, with candidates arguing over the rights and wrongs of a "no-deal" Brexit, Britain's most significant foreign and trade policy shift for more than 40 years. Will her replacement be able to finally deliver Brexit?

Brexit is still scheduled for October 31 but while 11 contenders thrash it out over the leadership, the project remains stuck, with the only divorce plan agreed with Brussels having been repeatedly rejected by parliament.

Gove said he hoped that the disclosure would not prevent him being appointed the next Prime Minister. "I think they are the really big losers here", he added. "It is now clear to me that it is in the best interest of the country for a new prime minister to lead that effort".

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