Theresa May Takes Over as Britain's Brexit PM

May-14-July-2016

Theresa May has taken over as Britain’s new Prime Minister, immediately shaking up her cabinet with the appointment of former London mayor Boris Johnson as Foreign Secretary.

May, who succeeds David Cameron after seeing off several rivals for leader of the Conservative Party, becomes Britain’s second female PM after Margaret Thatcher.

After formally being invited to form a government in a meeting with Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace, she arrived at her new Downing Street residence with a promise to lead a government that would tackle “burning injustice”.

“Following the referendum we face a time of great national change. And I know because we’re Great Britain that we will rise to the challenge,” Ms May told reporters, flanked by her husband Philip.

“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.”

But a spokeswoman for Ms May said she had told German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande over the phone that her government would need time before beginning talks on Britain’s exit.

“On all the phone calls, the prime minister emphasized her commitment to delivering the will of the British people to leave the European Union,” the spokeswoman said.

“The Prime Minister explained that we would need some time to prepare for these negotiations and spoke of her hope that these could be conducted in a constructive and positive spirit.”

The decision to name Mr Johnson, the eccentric former mayor of London, to the high-profile post of Foreign Secretary is likely to cause controversy.

Mr Johnson led the Brexit camp to victory, antagonizing many EU leaders in the process, but dismayed many of his supporters by pulling out of the race to succeed Mr Cameron at the last minute.

One of Britain’s most recognizable politicians, he is known for his blond mop-top hair, bumbling manner and tendency to drift into Latin during speeches.

He waved as he left Downing Street following his appointment, and told reporters that “the United States of America will be in the front of the queue”, referencing a comment by US President Barack Obama, who warned earlier this year that Britain would go to the “back of the queue” in trade talks if it voted to leave the EU.

“At this incredibly important time … it is extraordinary that the new prime minister has chosen someone whose career is built on making jokes,” said Tim Farron, leader of the opposition Liberal Democrats.

In other appointments, Philip Hammond also became Britain’s new Finance Minister, replacing George Osborne, who quit government after Ms May’s appointment.

Who is Theresa May?

Mr Hammond had been the foreign minister in the outgoing government of Mr Cameron since 2014.

Amber Rudd was appointed Home Secretary, the portfolio vacated by Ms May.

The anti-European Union MP David Davis moved from the backbenches into the newly created position of Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union.

As Scotland mulls moves that could eventually see it break away, following the referendum in which most Scots voted to stay in the EU but England and Wales voted to leave, Ms May said keeping the “precious” kingdom together was a priority.

EU leaders are pressing for a swift divorce following the vote to leave the bloc on June 23, which sent shockwaves around the world and plunged Britain into uncertainty.

European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker was among the first to offer his congratulations to Ms May, and said he hoped they would meet “in the near future”.

“The outcome of the United Kingdom’s referendum has created a new situation which the United Kingdom and the European Union will have to address soon,” he said.

Ms May campaigned for Britain to remain in the EU but has stressed that she will honor the popular vote, saying repeatedly that “Brexit means Brexit”.

However, she has refused to be rushed on the timetable.

Earlier, Mr Cameron had made his final statement in Downing Street flanked by his wife Samantha and three children, where he wished Britain “continued success”.

“It’s not been an easy journey and, of course, we’ve not got every decision right but I do believe today our country is much stronger,” the 49-year-old said.

He later made the short drive to the palace, where the Queen accepted his resignation after six years in office.

Mr Cameron had called the referendum and campaigned to stay in the EU in a bid to try to heal divisions in his Conservative party. He gambled, and he lost.

In his final question and answer session in the House of Commons on Wednesday, Mr Cameron echoed a line he had once used to taunt former Labor Prime Minister Tony Blair.

“As I once said, I was the future, once,” he said.

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