Following the withdrawal of her only competitor in the race to lead the ruling Conservative Party, Theresa May will become the second female prime minister in U.K. history on Wednesday.
May is poised to replace current Prime Minister David Cameron, who announced his resignation following the Brexit referendum. Cameron initially said that he would step down by October but will now resign on Wednesday with the news that Energy Minister Andrea Leadsom has dropped out of consideration to be his replacement.
Britons voted last month to leave the European Union in a historic referendum that shook the country, global partners and financial markets.
Here are five essential facts about May.
1. She supported membership in the European Union but was not particularly vocal about it.
May, who is viewed as leaning further to the right than Cameron, ultimately supported his push for the country to remain in the European Union. However, she was not outspoken about the position, which has permitted her to be viewed as a unity candidate in a time of fractured governance. She has said that she will reject calls to ignore the results of the referendum. “Brexit means Brexit,” May said. “And we’re going to make a success of it.”
2. She will assume leadership at a time of massive uncertainty for Britain.
Unifying Britain is unlikely to be easy. During the lead-up to the Brexit vote, fierce debates were waged over bureaucracy, national sovereignty, immigration and austerity. The referendum result sent the pound to a 31-year-low and markets pummeling. Moreover, analysts are concerned that the political consequences of the referendum could extend to the rest of Europe. May will oversee this time of apprehension and must lead Britain as it navigates its departure from the EU.
3. May presents herself as a “one nation” Conservative.
May has said she would address the needs of minority and impoverished communities and supports same-sex marriage. In addition, she is an advocate for worker participation on corporate boards. May also said that the government should increase borrowing to try to avert raising taxes. In an address to her supporters, she called for unity in the Conservative leadership contest. “Our country needs strong, proven leadership to steer us through this time of economic and political uncertainty and to negotiate the best deal for Britain as we leave the EU and forge a new role for ourselves in the world,” May said. She also called for “a vision of a country that works not for the privileged few, but for every one of us.”
4. As home secretary, she has overseen immigration and counterterrorism issues.
The position of home secretary is prominent in British government, and May has served in that capacity since 2010. In this role, she has managed issues that pertain to homeland security. The New York Times reports that “her political Achilles’ heel is immigration.” While Cameron said he would reduce net migration into the nation to under 100,000 people a year, the net figure for 2015 was more than 330,000.
5. May will be Britain’s second female prime minister after Margaret Thatcher.
After Margaret Thatcher, May will be the second woman to lead Britain. May has spoken in admiration of Thatcher, who served as prime minister from 1979 to 1990. Despite comparisons being made of the two women, May has insisted that she prefers to follow her own path and not have a political role model.