Theresa May, UK’s home secretary, is set to become the next prime minister of the United Kingdom after her major opponent, Andrea Leadsom, pulled out of the contest to become Conservative Party leader.
59-year-old May, who backed staying in the EU, has been home secretary since 2010.
Leadsom, who campaigned to leave the EU, said the UK needed “strong and stable government” and believes that May was “ideally placed” to implement Brexit.
May rejected the argument that the next leader and prime minister had to have been someone on the winning side of the EU referendum, saying “Brexit means Brexit and we’re going to make a success of it.”
In her brief statement in Westminster, Leadsom, a leading Brexit figure, said a nine-week leadership campaign at such a “critical time” for the UK would be “highly undesirable”.
Leadsom had apologised to May on Monday after she suggested in a weekend newspaper interview that being a mother made her a better candidate for the job.
Leadsom, who was flanked by some of her supporters, said: “Strong leadership is needed urgently to begin the work of withdrawing from the European Union. A nine-week leadership campaign at such a critical moment is highly undesirable.”
She acknowledged that her opponent had the support of more than 60% of Conservative MPs and was “ideally placed to implement Brexit on the best possible terms for the British people and she has promised she will do so”.
Leadsom said she was “incredibly grateful” to the 84 colleagues who supported her leadership bid but added that “this is less than 25% of the parliamentary party and after careful consideration I do not believe this is sufficient support to lead a strong and stable government should I win the leadership election.”
She said: “There is no greater privilege than to lead the Conservative Party in government and I would have been deeply honoured to do it.
“I have however concluded that the interests of our country are best served by the immediate appointment of a strong and well-supported prime minister.
“I am therefore withdrawing from the leadership election, and I wish Mrs May the very greatest success.