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First Female PM Since Iron Lady Set to Lead UK Through Brexit

By Saagar Enjeti

The U.K.’s Home Secretary Theresa May is set to become the first female prime minister since Margaret Thatcher — she will likely succeed David Cameron in the coming weeks, leading the U.K. out of the European Union.

May may become prime minister as soon as the end of the week, SkyNews reported Monday. May is the only remaining candidate in the Conservative Party leadership race, after Minister Andrea Leadsom dropped out Monday. Leadsom sparked outrage in the U.K. after telling the Times of London Sunday, that since she is a mother, she is more qualified than May to succeed as prime minister.

May is likely to trigger the EU’s Article 50, which will formally begin the U.K.’s exit from the EU, is she assumed office. After triggering Article 50, the U.K. will have two years to formally negotiate new trade deals with the EU. The EU has pressured the U.K. to formally begin its exit as early as possible.

The conservative party was largely split in its support of the U.K.’s referendum on EU membership, in which a majority of respondents voted June 23 to leave. May supported remaining within the EU, while Leadsom was a spokesman for the Leave campaign.

Cameron announced he would step down in the days following the U.K. vote to leave the EU, citing the need for fresh leadership in the complex negotiations required after the formal process is initiated. Cameron, along with several allies in the Conservative party, supported May’s bid for leadership.

The conservative party currently holds a majority of the seats within the U.K.’s parliament, the U.K.’s prime minister is traditionally the head of the majority party in the parliament. May can thus become prime minister without holding an early national general election. Some critics have called for another general election to give the conservative party a fresh mandate for leadership through Brexit.

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