LONDON – Theresa May became Britain’s new prime minister on Wednesday, accepting an invitation to govern from Queen Elizabeth II after the resignation of David Cameron. She promised to lead a “one-nation” government dedicated to social justice and making “Britain a country that works for everyone.”
Alluding to the tough negotiations that lie ahead over Britain’s exit from the European Union, May said, “we face a time of great national change.”
But she said Britain would “rise to the challenge” and forge “a bold new positive role” in the world.
READ MORE: David Cameron says being PM ‘the greatest honour of my life’ in final Downing Street speech
May is expected to begin appointing new Cabinet ministers as early as Wednesday evening – including a “Brexit” minister to oversee talks on a British EU exit from the 28-nation EU. There is also speculation that May, Britain’s second female prime minister after Margaret Thatcher, will boost the number of women in top posts.
In a carefully orchestrated political ballet, Cameron made his final appearance as prime minister in Parliament, turning the usually raucous prime minister’s questions session into a time for praise, thanks, gentle ribbing, cheers – and a sprinkle of criticism.
Then, after a rousing speech defending his government’s legacy, he and his family left his home at 10 Downing Street for the last time and made the short drive to Buckingham Palace. Soon after, the palace confirmed that Cameron had “tendered his resignation as prime minister and First Lord of the Treasury, which her majesty was graciously pleased to accept.”
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Minutes later, May arrived at the palace, accompanied by her husband Philip. Royal officials released a photo of May curtseying to the monarch and confirmed the queen had “requested her to form a new administration.”
May, 59, has been Britain’s home secretary, in charge of immigration and law and order, for the past six years. She has the tough task of calming the country and global financial markets after the upheaval that has followed Brexit vote.
Theresa May: Britain's next PM | Graphiq
Although May backed remaining in the EU, she has reassured “leave” supporters that “Brexit means Brexit, and we will make a success of it.”
She is under pressure – both from pro-Brexit Conservatives and other EU leaders – to start formal exit talks with the bloc. But Tony Travers of the London School of Economics said May would likely not rush to trigger Article 50 of the EU constitution, which starts a two-year countdown to a final exit.
“I don’t detect Theresa May being an impulsive person,” Travers said. “I think she’s a cautious person, and the British political establishment needs to come to terms with this massive decision.”
Cameron, 49, resigned after voters rejected his advice and decided to leave the European Union.
“It has been the greatest honor of my life to serve our country as prime minister over these last six years, and to serve as leader of my party for almost 11 years,” he said outside 10 Downing St., accompanied by his wife Samantha and his children – 12-year-old Nancy, 10-year-old Elwen and 5-year-old Florence.
“It’s not been an easy journey and of course we have not got every decision right, but I do believe that today our country is much stronger,” Cameron said.