Following the resignation of David Cameron, Theresa May is Britain's first female PM since Margaret Thatcher and the first to lead the country out of the European Union after its historic Brexit referendum, which was held in June 2016. May is a member of the Conservative Party and originally voted to stay in the EU, despite having reservations. Prior to her taking the top office, she had served as home secretary since 2010 and was elected MP (Member of Parliament) of Maidenhead in 1997.
Early Life and Career
Theresa Mary May was born on October 1, 1956 in Eastbourne, Sussex. Her father was a vicar for the Church of England and her mother was a housewife. May attended state-run primary and grammar schools and briefly went to Catholic school. She studied geography at St. Hugh's College at Oxford University and earned her BA degree in 1977. It was during this time she had met her husband Phillip May and the two married in 1980.
After graduation, May spent the next 20 years working in the financial sector before making her way into the education and political sectors in the mid '80s and '90s. She was elected as Conservative MP (Member of Parliament) of Maidenhead in 1997.
She's considered a liberal conservative and further describes herself as a One-Nation Conservative.
In 2002 May was appointed as the first female Chairman of the Conservative Party and was famously quoted as saying it must no longer be known as the "Nasty Party." She served in a number of Shadow Cabinets before becoming Home Secretary in 2010, and also became the Minister for Women and Equalities, a post she vacated in 2012.
As the longest-serving Home Secretary in six decades, she is known for her work on police reform and pursuing stricter drug and immigration policies.
'Brexit' and PM Candidacy
To the shock of the world and to almost half of its own citizens, the U.K. voted to exit the European Union in June 2016 — an event which is referred to as the "Brexit" (Britain Exit) referendum. (May originally voted to remain in the E.U., although she was known to be a "Euroskeptic.")
After Prime Minister David Cameron announced his resignation, May announced her candidacy for the Conservative Party and quickly emerged as its frontrunner, receiving 50% of the Parliamentary votes alone amid the other candidates. On July 7, 2016 it appeared that she and fellow Conservative leader Andrea Leadsom would both be in contention to become the country's next PM, but within days, Leadsom, who voted for Britain to leave the E.U., pulled out of the running due to distasteful remarks she made about why she would make a better PM.
With no one contesting her candidacy, May was set to be sworn in as the first post-Brexit female Prime Minister. On July 11, 2016 she made a televised announcement surrounded by Members of Parliament and her husband Philip, about seeing Brexit through:
"During this campaign, my case has been based on three things. First, the need for strong, proven leadership to steer us through what will be difficult and uncertain economic and political times. The need, of course, to negotiate the best deal for Britain in leaving the EU and to forge a new role for ourselves in the world. Brexit means Brexit. And we are going to make a success of it."
May continued: "Second, we need to unite our country. And third, we need a strong, new positive vision for the future of our country. A vision of a country that works, not for the privileged few, but that works for every one of us. Because we’re going to give people more control over their lives. And that’s how, together, we will build a better Britain.’"
May was sworn in as Britain's second female Prime Minister on July 13, 2016 and the Queen's 13th prime minister following ceremonial overtures.
On May 29, 2017, Prime Minister May officially told Parliament that she had invoked Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, legislation triggering the legal process to set Brexit in motion. "This is an historic moment from which there can be no turning back. Britain is leaving the European Union,” she said. “We are going to make our own decisions and our own laws. . .We are going to take control of the things that matter most to us. And we are going to take this opportunity to build a stronger, fairer Britain — a country that our children and grandchildren are proud to call home."
The United Kingdom’s ambassador to the European Union Tim Barrow delivered a letter to European Council President Donald Tusk, notifying the EU that the U.K. was leaving the union.
May has been married to her financier husband, Philip May, since 1980. The couple have spoken publicly about their inability to have children due to May's health issues. In 2012 May was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes.
Outside of political life, May has a reputation for her style and fondness for shoes. She reportedly wore leopard print heels when she made her "Nasty Party" speech in 2002.
May is an Anglican and worships regularly. She has stated that her faith ".... is part of me. It is part of who I am and therefore how I approach things."
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