David Cameron announced Monday that he would formally resign as the United Kingdom’s prime minister later this week, paving the way for Home Secretary Theresa May to replace him as the Conservative Party’s next leader after her lone challenger exited the race earlier in the day.
May’s path to the premiership was virtually sealed after rival Andrea Leadsom, the U.K.’s energy minister, unexpectedly abandoned her leadership bid, citing insufficient support among the party’s members in Parliament.
Hours after Leadsom’s departure from the race, Cameron announced he would hand his resignation to Queen Elizabeth II on Wednesday. May, who oversees the nation’s policing, crime, and immigration as home secretary, would move into Downing Street that evening.
Graham Brady, a member of Parliament who chairs the committee overseeing the Conservative Party leadership election, said the party would discuss May’s confirmation Monday afternoon.
"I think the party will be pleased to be able to move forward, united behind a new leader," he told the Wall Street Journal.
May is set to become Britain’s first female prime minister since 1990, when Margaret Thatcher resigned from the premiership.
May received 60 percent of support from Conservative lawmakers in a leadership vote Thursday versus Leadsom’s 25 percent. Leadsom came under fire over the weekend after suggesting in an interview that she would be better for the position because she has children and May does not.
"After careful consideration, I do not believe this is sufficient support to lead a strong and stable government should I win the leadership election," Leadsom said Monday. "I am therefore withdrawing."
May will be tasked with facilitating the U.K.’s exit from the European Union, known as Brexit, after the nation decisively voted on June 23 to sever its 43-year membership in the bloc. Cameron, who campaigned hard for Britain to remain in the EU, said after the referendum that he would resign later this year, adding he should not be the one to lead the country’s historic transition.
May herself wanted the U.K. to stay in the EU but told reporters Monday she would list to the will of the British voters.
"Brexit means Brexit, and we’re going to make a success of it," she said. "There will be no attempts to remain inside the EU. No attempts to rejoin it by the back door. No second referendum. The country voted to leave the European Union, and as prime minister, I will make sure we leave the European Union."
Conservative leaders Boris Johnson and Michael Gove, who had initially wanted to succeed Cameron and spearheaded the Brexit movement, said they would support May.
The Brexit vote has also upended the Labour Party, whose leader Jeremy Corbyn is increasingly facing pressure to resign his post.