Interior minister Theresa May will become Britain’s Prime Minister on Wednesday, with the task of steering its withdrawal from the European Union (EU), after rival Andrea Leadsom abruptly terminated her disastrous leadership campaign.
May, 59, will succeed David Cameron, who announced he was stepping down after Britons unexpectedly voted last month to quit the EU.
Britain’s planned withdrawal has weakened the 28-nation bloc, created huge uncertainty over trade and investment, and shaken financial markets.
May and Leadsom had been due to contest a ballot of grassroots Conservative Party members, with the result to be declared by September 9. But Leadsom unexpectedly quit on Monday after a campaign dogged by ill-judged comments about her rival’s lack of children and questions about whether she had exaggerated her CV.
“I am honoured and humbled to have been chosen by the Conservative Party to become its leader,” said May, who favoured remaining in the EU but has made clear there is no going back on the result of the June 23 referendum.
“Brexit means Brexit, and we’re going to make a success of it.”
May’s victory means that the complex process of extricating Britain from the EU will be led by someone from the losing side of the acrimonious referendum campaign
Earlier, Cameron told reporters in front of his 10 Downing Street residence that he expected to chair his last cabinet meeting on Tuesday and take questions in parliament on Wednesday before tendering his resignation to Queen Elizabeth.
“So we will have a new prime minister in that building behind me by Wednesday evening,” he said.
May will become Britain’s second female prime minister, after Margaret Thatcher.
Her victory means that the complex process of extricating Britain from the EU will be led by someone from the losing side of the acrimonious referendum campaign.
She has said Britain needs time to work out its negotiating strategy and should not initiate formal divorce proceedings before the end of the year.
In a speech earlier on Monday in the city of Birmingham, May said there could be no second referendum and no attempt to rejoin the EU by the back door.
“As prime minister, I will make sure that we leave the European Union,” she said.
The White House said United States President Barack Obama was confident that the “special relationship” between the United States and Britain would continue after May becomes prime minister.