As Andrea Leadsom quits Conservative leadership race Theresa May will become the next British Prime Minister. What do you expect from her especially regarding Brexit, where is she strong politically and what about her weaknesses? Read few comments.
Hugh Pemberton, Reader in Contemporary British History, University of Bristol
There seems to be widespread agreement that the Brexit referendum vote must be respected, but the referendum did not determine the form or date of that exit. I think it is highly likely that May, who campaigned for a Remain vote, will seek to limit the scope of Brexit to the extent that she can do so and still allow herself to claim that the wishes of voters are being respected.
That, however, will require subtle handling of relations with leaders of other EU countries and that does not play to her strengths for she has more limited experience of EU negotiations than would be ideal. However, she is also a very astute politician – nobody who manages to be Home Secretary for 6 years can be anything but a consummate political operator for it is historically a graveyard for political ambition. And I think she will find a sympathetic hearing – though not on free movement I imagine, which will plainly have to be traded away. (Though that may be made easier by what I suspect will be a marked decline in inward migration from the EU as a consequence of a lower pound sterling).
I suspect she’ll call a general election within a year. That may provide political legitimacy for ‘Brexit-lite’.
Although Theresa May was a Remainer in the referendum campaign she has since said that ‘Brexit means Brexit’ and that she won’t invoke Article 50 until the end of the year. I am sure she will keep to those commitments and will want to prepare thoroughly for the negotiations. She has been one of the longest Home Secretaries and has earned a reputation as a tough political operator with a record of taking on vested interests. She is not a flamboyant politician but commands respect across the Conservative Party. She faces one of the most difficult situations of any incoming Prime Minister since the Second World War.
Charlie Beckett, Professor, Polis Director, The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)
I think that the Conservatives are getting their act together in a brutal but effective way. The things to watch will be the next cabinet and what role is given to people like Gove and Ledsom. May is a pretty straight politician who plays hard ball but is not interested in gestures or personality feuds. She has chosen to make two core statements: she will implement Brexit in full and she wants to move the party into areas of policy that will address much of the economic and social discontent that lay behind the referendum vote. That means the Conservatives will be a more inclusive but realistically eurosceptic party by the time of the election – which I don’t think will come early. This is perfect positioning to destroy the Labour Party (which is doing a great job of self-destruction anyway at the moment). The key issue in the Brexit negotiations will be freedom of movement. May presided over record levels of immigration while Home Secretary but she was prepared to do a lot to try to stop it including quite distasteful schemes such as the vans with adverts telling illegal immigrants that to surrender and go home. So there is every indication that she will play tough with the EU in what will be a long and complex process.
Paul Taggart, Professor of Politics, University of Sussex
May has strong credentials from the perspective of the Conservative Party. She has pulled off the almost-impossible task of making a success of the Home Office, the most notoriously difficult briefs in British politics and she looks like doing the nearly impossible in being a remainer who can win the support of Conservative Brexiteers to be the leader to remove the UK from the EU.