Theresa May will take over from David Cameron on Wednesday and become the UK’s first female prime minister since Margaret Thatcher.
Britain’s home secretary (interior minister) was left as the only candidate to be the new leader of the ruling Conservative Party after her rival Andrea Leadsom pulled out of the race and Cameron then said he would quit much earlier than planned.
May’s mammoth task will be to prepare Britain’s Brexit negotiations with Brussels following the country’s vote to leave the EU – something she has said should not be rushed.
“Brexit means Brexit and we are going to make a success of it. Second we need to unite our country and third we need a strong new positive vision for the future of our country,” Theresa May told her supporters outside parliament.
May was speaking shortly after addressing Conservative MPs inside parliament, where she reportedly got a rapturous response.
Britain’s next leader backed the ‘Remain’ campaign to stay in the EU but took a back seat in the run-up to the vote and has since repeated several times that the referendum result means the UK will leave the bloc.
In a day of fast moving events, David Cameron – who will be remembered as the prime minister who triggered Britain’s departure from the EU – said he would hand over to Theresa May on Wednesday and gave his backing to his successor.
“It’s clear Theresa May has the overwhelming support of the Conservative Parliamentary party. I am also delighted that Theresa May will be the next prime minister, she is strong, she is competent, she is more than able to provide the leadership that our country is going to need in the years ahead and she will have my full support – thank you,” Cameron told reporters outside Number 10 Downing Street.
Cameron will preside over his last prime minister’s questions on Wednesday before formally handing in his resignation to the Queen.
Monday’s developments remove the prospect of a drawn-out party leadership battle which might have seen plenty of Brexit blood respilt – fuelling the international financial and political turmoil amid the uncertainty following the referendum.
Britain’s main opposition parties have called for an early general election, arguing that the appointment of Theresa May is undemocratic as she has no popular mandate.