Themorningbellbd.com desk, July 13: Theresa May replaced David Cameron as Britain’s prime minister on Wednesday, assuming responsibility for the monumental task of negotiating a complex divorce from the European Union.
The former home secretary travelled to Buckingham Palace where she officially accepted the Queen’s invitation to form a new government.
Cameron stepped down after Britons rejected his entreaties and voted to leave the EU in a referendum last month, severely undermining European efforts to forge greater unity and creating economic uncertainty across the 28-nation bloc.
May, 59 assumed office after an audience with Queen Elizabeth. An official photograph showed her curtseying and shaking hands with the smiling monarch, 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.
She must try to limit the damage to British trade and investment as she renegotiates the country’s ties with its 27 EU partners. She will also attempt 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.
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 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.
In his farewell statement outside Downing Street, Mr Cameron said Mrs May would provide “strong and stable leadership” and wished her well in her negotiations with the EU.
Before Mrs May’s visit to Buckingham Palace, the Queen accepted Mr Cameron’s resignation as prime minister.
Mrs May, 59, suddenly won the Conservative leadership contest after rival candidate Andrea Leadsom pulled out on Monday.
One of her first tasks will be to appoint her new ministerial team.