Theresa May: Next PM to lead the UK with great challenges

Updated: 00:00 GMT, Jan 1, 1970 | Published: 07:06 GMT, Jul 13, 2016 |

Theresa May will succeed David Cameron as British prime minister on Wednesday, having served as home secretary for six years – the longest-serving politician to hold that post in the country’s recent history.

The 59-year-old is relatively unknown internationally, while at home she is often described as a tough negotiator. During her tenure in the home office, media reports often referred to May as “steely”, “single-minded”, and even “ruthless”.

May outmaneuvered all other contenders to the position of the leader of the ruling Conservative Party, simply by outlasting rivals as they imploded around her in the wake of Britain’s vote to leave the EU – including former London Mayor Boris Johnson, who led the Brexit campaign, as well as his one-time Brexit ally, Justice Secretary Michael Gove.

May is probably best known for her tough stance on immigration as home secretary, including efforts to cut net migration numbers such as barring British citizens from bringing spouses and children into the UK unless they earn in excess of £18,600 ($24,000).

One study estimated that 15,000 children had been affected by the minimum income requirement since its implementation in 2012.

The Divided Families Campaign accused May of making family reunification “a privilege for only the wealthy” and “turning the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on its head” as it pertains to families and home life.

Following last month’s referendum vote, May has not clarified whether “she believes the rights of EU citizens living in the UK should be protected,” media reports said.

“I’m very clear that the Brexit vote gave us a very clear message from people, that we couldn’t allow freedom of movement to continue as it had done hitherto,” May said.

“We need to bring control into movement of people coming into the UK from the EU … Still I believe we should have that goal of bringing immigration down to sustainable levels.”

While she must now take charge of delicate negotiations to separate Britain from the EU, May stayed out of the spotlight during Britain’s divisive referendum campaign – and only tepidly backed remaining in the bloc in a single speech.