Even before she won the race to become Britain’s next prime minister, Theresa May made it clear she was all business by declaring “Brexit means Brexit” earlier this week.
When the 59-year-old Conservative Party Home Secretary takes over Downing Street on Wednesday, she will become the UK’s second female prime minister, 26 years after former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher stepped down.
May is widely known as tough and unflappable — and somewhat lacking in charisma. That may be just what Britons are looking for after the June vote to leave the European Union unleashed political and economic turmoil inside the ruling Conservative Party and across world markets.
In fact, it was the fallout from Brexit that gave May her long-hoped for opening to become prime minister. Hours after the referendum, Prime Minister David Cameron, who lobbied hard against leaving the EU, resigned.
Like Cameron, May was against Brexit, but kept a low profile in the days leading up to the vote. Now she will be front and center in leading the country’s unprecedented withdrawal from the bloc.
On Monday she vowed to ignore calls for a new vote, saying “Brexit means Brexit…. we’re going to make a success of it.”
She has pledged unity, saying she aims to “bring people back together – rich and poor, north and south ... young and old, male and female, black and white.”
Fixture in UK politics
May is a familiar face among the small group of powerful women in the Conservative Party and is widely reported to have always been politically ambitious.
She grew up a firm member of Britain’s middle-class, attending St. Hugh’s College at Oxford. In 1997, May became a Member of Parliament for Maidenhead, and has already made history by becoming the second longest serving Home Secretary, having held the post since May 2010.