Theresa May prepares to take over as Brexit PM
13 July 2016, 13:05
London – British Prime Minister David Cameron steps
down on Wednesday and Theresa May prepares to take his place following a
momentous referendum to leave the European Union that has sent shockwaves
around the world.
Cameron will hold his final weekly question and
answer session in parliament before tendering his resignation to Queen
Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace.
The monarch will then call on May to form a
government and the newly-anointed prime minister will make a statement outside
her new Downing Street residence.
European leaders have asked the government to move
quickly to renegotiate its relationship with the EU but May has indicated she
will not be rushed into triggering the formal procedure for Brexit.
The 59-year-old, who will become Britain's second
female prime minister after Margaret Thatcher, also has to attempt to bridge
Conservative Party divisions and deal with a potential economic downturn.
Her other daunting challenges include keeping
pro-EU Scotland from bidding for independence in order to stay in the 28-nation
bloc, and weaving new global trade and diplomatic alliances to prepare for a
Clouds start to disperse
May campaigned with Cameron for Britain to stay in
the EU and she will also have to convince Brexit supporters that she will
implement the result of the June 23 referendum to leave the EU as she has
After six years in office, Cameron announced he
would resign the day after the vote. He will chiefly be remembered for
proposing the referendum in the first place and then spectacularly failing to
He sought to deflect that criticism in an interview
with the Daily Telegraph on Wednesday, saying: "As I leave, I hope people
will see a stronger country, a thriving economy and more chances to get on in
"It has been a privilege to serve the country
May's bid for his job accelerated as key proponents
of Britain's EU withdrawal, including charismatic former mayor of London Boris
Johnson, stepped back in a head-spinning round of political bloodletting.
The vote exposed deep inequalities in British
society which May has promised to address and upended the political scene,
sending her Conservatives and the main opposition Labour Party into turmoil.
Labour's embattled leader Jeremy Corbyn, who was
accused of failing to persuade working-class voters to back EU membership, now
faces a bitter leadership contest of his own against rebel lawmaker Angela
Investors will be watching May's first days in
office closely but with greater optimism as the value of the pound, which fell
by up to 15% against the dollar and the euro in the days of the Brexit vote,
has rebounded on news of her impending promotion.
"Theresa May's virtual 'coronation' as prime
minister has delivered a boost to the pound as the clouds of uncertainty
following the Brexit vote start to disperse," said market analyst Neil Wilson
at ETX Capital, a financial trading company in London.
May is expected to begin announcing cabinet picks
later on Wednesday and these could reportedly include current energy minister
Amber Rudd, foreign minister Philip Hammond and Brexit campaigner Chris
Grayling, the Conservatives' House of Commons leader.
May has been a tough-talking interior minister for
the past six years and is something of an unknown quantity internationally,
although she has received ringing endorsements from party colleagues and a
normally sceptical British tabloid press.
She is also liked in and around Maidenhead, the
well-to-do commuter town west of London that she has represented in parliament
"She will get this country back on its
feet," said 69-year-old Jim Charlesworth, a neighbour of May and her
banker husband Philip.
Martin Trepte, editor of the Maidenhead Advertiser,
the local newspaper, said: "She's a mature, grown-up, no-nonsense
politician. She knows her stuff."
The daughter of a Church of England vicar, May is a
cricket fan with a sober, well-mannered demeanour who lists her hobbies as
cooking and walking.
She shows a flash of flamboyance with a colourful
shoe collection – particularly her leopard-skin heels – which has become famous
in the British press.