May wins big in first round of voting to be post-Brexit UK PM

Theresa May, the current home secretary, is now poised to be the new British prime minister - without an election. [Reuters/Peter Nicholls]

Theresa  May, the British Home Secretary, swept into a convincing lead in the first round of voting to replace David Cameron as prime minister on Tuesday (5 July).

She came first in a field of five Conservative MPs, ahead of another possible round to be voted on by MPs, before a shortlist of two candidates is put to an internal contest of Tory party members over the summer.

The winner – to be announced on 9 September – will automatically become prime minister, as well as Conservative leader, and immediately be faced with the problem of when to trigger Article 50, the legal notification to leave the EU.

Ironically, May was a Remain campaigner.

Cameron announced he would stand down on the morning after the UK’s shock 52-48% vote to leave.

May received 165 votes, followed by previously hardly-known junior energy minister Andrea Leadsom in second place on 66 votes.

Right-wing former defence secretary Liam Fox became the first candidate to be eliminated from the race after coming last in the contest with 16 votes.

Michael Gove, a prominent Leave campaigner and former education secretary, came third with 48 votes.

Work and Pensions Secretary Stephen Crabb was fourth with 34 votes.

Crabb immediately dropped out of the race, and pledged his backing for May.

A further ballot is expected on Thursday, unless other candidates drop out.

Gove campaigned alongside Boris Johnson for a Leave vote, with the expectation that Johnson would later run for PM, but the pair fell out dramatically last week, and Johnson refused to stand.

Earlier in the day in a Westminster still convulsed with shock at the speed of events since 23 June, the man now in charge of drawing up the government’s Brexit plans said that the new PM would be able to trigger Article 50 without a further vote in the House of Commons – something there had been legal dispute on.

Oliver Letwin also said that the issue was “academic” since parliament would eventually have to either repeal or amend the 1972 European Communities Act, the legal basis for Britain’s EU membership.

Letwin told a parliament committee that Article 50 could be invoked under Royal Prerogative, a type of British government executive privilege.

“I am advised that the government lawyers’ view is that it clearly is a prerogative power. No doubt that will be heard in court,” Letwin said.

Economic fears

Meanwhile, in the economic repercussions of Brexit started to take shape as the Bank of England warned that risks to financial stability were materialising, as commercial property investors scrambled to pull money out on Brexit fears.

The pound meanwhile plunged to fresh 31-year dollar low at exactly $1.30 after Bank of England (BoE) governor Mark Carney vowed to take “whatever action is needed” to support stability.

And Britain’s first government bond launch since the June 23 EU referendum returned a record-low yield of 0.382 percent.

“There is evidence that some risks have begun to crystallise. The current outlook for UK financial stability is challenging,” the Bank said in a report.

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