Theresa May set to become new British Prime Minister

David Cameron to step down as prime minister on Wednesday following Andrea Leadsom's decision to back out of Conservative Party leadership race.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Theresa May speaks to reporters after being confirmed as the leader of the Conservative Party and Britain's next Prime Minister outside the Houses of Parliament in Westminster, central London, July 11, 2016

Theresa May will be the next prime minister of the United Kingdom, after her main rival for the Conservative Party leadership pulled out of a leadership contest.

Current Prime Minister David Cameron, who is due to tender his resignation to Queen Elizabeth II on Wednesday after a final session of Prime Minister's Questions, is expected to be succeeded by May, after Andrea Leadsom quit the race for the leadership position on Monday.

"We'll have a new prime minister in that building behind me," Cameron said in a statement outside 10 Downing Street.

May, who is currently Britain's home secretary, will be Britain's first woman prime minister since Margaret Thatcher, who governed from 1979 until 1990.

Steering Britain through difficult times

May's leadership victory comes after a nationwide referendum held on 23 June decided that Britain should exit the EU.

The outcome prompted Cameron to step down, setting off a leadership race among the ruling Conservatives. May, who had previously campaigned for Britain to remain in the EU, has subsequently stated that "Brexit means Brexit" and emphasised that it is imperative that the best deal be negotiated for Britain when it comes to leaving the EU.

"There will be no attempts to remain inside the EU, no attempts to rejoin it by the back door, and no second referendum. The country voted to leave the European Union and as Prime Minister I will make sure that we leave the European Union," she said during a speech on Monday.

May's plans to leave the European Union involves beginning formal talks to leave the EU by the end of the year at the earliest, despite insistence from Brussels that the process be sped up and a minister be appointed to oversee Brexit. A priority in the negotiations will be winning the right for British companies to trade with the EU's single market in goods and services after it leaves the union, although freedom of movement will have to be curbed.

"The Brexit vote was also a message that we need to bring control to free movement. Free movement cannot continue as it has up to now," she said.

May’s task involves steering Britain through triggering Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty and through one of Britain’s worst political crises. The EU wants Britain to commit to leaving by early 2019 and has said that there can be no negotiations before Article 50 is triggered. It has no clear power to hold Britain to an exit schedule but has some levers against disruptive members.

However, May has made clear that Britain will not trigger the exit proceedings until London is ready to start negotiations.  

A change in Labour’s leadership

British opposition Labour lawmaker Angela Eagle launched her bid to take over the leadership of the party on Monday, saying that current leader Jeremy Corbyn was not up to the task of defeating the ruling Conservatives.

Following Eagle’s decision to stand for the leadership of the Labour Party, the party’s general secretary confirmed the leadership contest has been triggered officially and that the timetable would be set out after a meeting of Labour’s national executive committee due to take place on Monday.

Eagle, who is from Labour’s "soft" left, said that Britain faced "dangerous times" ahead and that Corbyn is unable to face the task of holding the Conservative government to account.

Corbyn has lost the confidence of at least three-quarters of his MPs, many of whom accuse him of lacklustre campaigning to stay in the EU.

However, the Labour leader, a veteran socialist, retains support among the party's ordinary members, leading some lawmakers and commentators to speculate the leadership contest may split the party.  

A leading Brexit campaigner, Nigel Farage – who was the head of the UK Independence Party – recently stepped down, saying that "The victory for the 'Leave' side in the referendum means that my political ambition has been achieved."

TRTWorld and agencies