Theresa May, who assumed office on Wednesday after David Cameron bowed out earlier in the day said: “we will rise to the challenge. As we leave the European Union, we will forge a bold new positive role for ourselves in the world, and we will make Britain a country that works not for a privileged few, but for every one of us.”
The 59 year old new helmswoman is expected to embark on the monumental task of leading the country out of the European Union. She had earlier had an audience with Queen Elizabeth after which she drove straight to her new home of 10 Downing Street.
Theresa May remarked: “when we take the big calls we’ll think not of the powerful but you, when we pass new laws we’ll listen not to the mighty but to you, when it comes to taxes we’ll prioritize not the wealthy but you.”
She is expected to limit the damage to British trade and investment as she renegotiates the country’s ties with its 27 European Union partners. She is also expected to unite a divided ruling Conservative party and a fractured nation in which many, on the evidence of the vote, feel angry with the political elite and left behind by the forces of globalization.
Acknowledging the struggles faced by many Britons, Theresa May declared: “The government I lead will be driven not by the interests of the privileged few, but by yours. We will do everything we can to give you more control over your lives.”
The United States congratulated Theresa May and said that it is confident in her ability to steer Britain through the Brexit negotiations.
“Based on the public comments we’ve seen from the incoming prime minister, she intends to pursue a course that’s consistent with the prescription that President Obama has offered,” White House spokesman, Josh Earnest, said.
An official photograph showed May curtseying to a smiling Queen Elizabeth, for whom she is the 13th prime minister in a line that started with Winston Churchill. She is also Britain’s second female head of government after Margaret Thatcher.
EU leaders, keen to move forward after the shock of ‘Brexit’, want May to launch formal divorce proceedings as soon as possible to help resolve the uncertainty. But she has said the process should not be launched before the end of year, to give time for Britain to draw up its negotiating strategy.
Although she favored Britain remaining in Europe, May has repeatedly declared that “Brexit means Brexit” and that there can be no attempt to reverse the referendum outcome.
The shock vote partly reflected discontent with EU rules on freedom of movement that have contributed to record-high immigration – an issue on which May, as interior minister for the past six years, is politically vulnerable.
But EU leaders have made it clear that free movement is a fundamental principle that goes hand-in-hand with access to the bloc’s tariff-free single market, a stance that will hugely complicate May’s task in hammering out new terms of trade.
“My advice to my successor, who is a brilliant negotiator, is that we should try to be as close to the European Union as we can be for the benefits of trade, cooperation and of security,” Cameron told parliament in his last appearance before resigning.
Appearing later in Downing Street with his wife, Samantha, and their three children, he delivered his parting remarks to the nation after six years dominated by the Europe question and the aftermath of the global financial crisis. “It’s not been an easy journey and of course we’ve not got every decision right,” he said, “but I do believe that today our country is much stronger.”
In parliament, Cameron took the opportunity to trumpet his government’s achievements in generating one of the fastest growth rates among western economies, chopping the budget deficit, creating 2.5 million jobs and legalizing gay marriage.
May is seen by her supporters as a safe pair of hands to steer the country through the disruptive Brexit process. Colleagues describe her as cautious, unflappable and intensely private. [myad]