Home Secretary Theresa May will be the next prime minister of the United Kingdom reportedly as early as Wednesday this week, bringing a fast resolution to the dramatic events surrounding last month’s “Brexit” vote to leave the European Union and the subsequent resignation of current Prime Minister David Cameron. May’s candidacy for prime minister is uncontested after Andrea Leadsom, Britain’s energy minister, dropped out of the race; Boris Johnson, former London mayor, declined to run; and Michael Gove, who with Johnson was a prominent proponent of the Leave Campaign, failed to attract enough support for the position.
The most pressing issue facing the incoming prime minister, of course, is overseeing the departure of the United Kingdom from the European Union as part of the Brexit vote. In a statement, May says she would provide “strong, proven leadership to steer…through what will be difficult and uncertain economic and political times” and also to “negotiate the best deal for Britain in leaving the EU, and to forge a new role for ourselves in the world.”
While many voters have expressed regret for their Brexit votes after the sudden economic downturn that happened immediately post-Brexit referendum, May left no room for a second referendum, saying: “Brexit means Brexit, and we are going to make a success of it.” What success that might be is difficult to tell, as she has not released any specifics about how she will negotiate UK’s departure from the EU. May says that “her priority would be reclaiming greater power for Britain to control immigration, even if it meant sacrificing access to the Continent’s single market for goods and services.” As Home Secretary since 2005, Ms. May has overseen some controversial immigration initiatives and programs:
- One of her most controversial policies to drastically reduce immigration from outside the EU was a new rule barring British citizens from bringing their spouses or children into Britain unless they earned more than £18,600, no matter how much their non-British spouse earned. Critics say this law is causing families to be split apart. The law is being challenged in the UK Supreme Court;
- She also was responsible for the widely criticized “go home vans,” which drove around the country offering undocumented immigrants assistance in returning to their home countries. Plagued with hoax calls and texts and widely mocked, the program resulted in just 11 people leaving the country.
Despite all this, she says she will be a unifier and bring together a wide variety of people in the UK, saying “we need a strong, new positive vision for the future of our country, a vision of a country that works not for the privileged few but that works for everyone of us.”
The whirlwind of events culminating with this new prime minister without a general election—which was originally scheduled for 2020—has led some to call for a popular vote. Tim Farron, the head of the Liberal Democrats, is objecting to Ms. May’s becoming prime minister, saying on Twitter: “With @TheresaMay2016’s coronation we need an early General Election. The Tories now have no mandate. Britain deserves better than this.”