- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Theresa May formally took office as Britain’s second female prime minister on Wednesday, immediately appointing some of her top rivals for the job to top posts in her Cabinet.

Former London Mayor Boris Johnson, the controversial leading voice of the successful campaign to leave the European Union, will become the country’s top diplomat as foreign secretary, while former Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond will take over as chancellor of the exchequer. David Davis, a Conservative MP who was one of the most vocal “Brexit” supporters, was given a newly created post to oversee the divorce talks with Brussels for the U.K. to exit the EU.

A onetime banker and the country’s home secretary under departing Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron, Ms. May promised to fight for social justice and poor families in her first public remarks outside her new home at 10 Downing Street, calling the decision to quit the EU an opportunity to “forge a bold new positive role for ourselves in the world.”

“The government I lead will be driven not by the interests of the privileged few but by you,” the 59-year-old Ms. May, considered a pragmatist in her party, said. She promised to fight “burning injustice” in Britain, govern for the poor and fight to preserve the union of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

In addition to a new leadership team, Ms. May created two new Cabinet posts — Mr. Davis’ EU job and a new secretary of state for international trade, to be filled by former defense secretary and “Leave” supporter Liam Fox.

The Cabinet was revealed after Ms. May returned from Buckingham Palace during the traditional visit with Queen Elizabeth II, who invited her to form a new government. She is now the 54th person and second woman to hold the office — after Margaret Thatcher — since it was created in the 18th century.

In a speech on Monday, she said she was “honored and humbled” to be chosen as the next PM and that her campaign had always been about the need for strong leadership in “what is sure to be difficult and uncertain economic and political times.”

Though she joined Mr. Cameron in supporting continued EU membership, Ms. May assured the public on Monday that “Brexit means Brexit.” She will not try to reverse the referendum vote and promised “to make a success” of the surprise decision.

After the humiliating loss in last month’s national referendum, Prime Minister Cameron announced plans to step down in October, but expedited his departure after Ms. May emerged from a multicandidate scramble to succeed him as head of the Conservative majority. Many people believed Mr. Johnson would replace Mr. Cameron, but he surprisingly dropped out.

“Theresa May has the authority and the leadership necessary to unite the Conservative Party and the country,” wrote Mr. Johnson on his Twitter account shortly after it was announced that Ms. May would succeed Mr. Cameron.

Congratulations came from all sides in Parliament, but some expressed concern given her tough stands over the past five years as the equivalent of Britain’s homeland security chief.

“She will need to establish clear leadership quickly and effectively,” announced Tim Farron, leader of the center-left Liberal Democrats. “Her approach to civil liberties is deeply worrying and does not offer any reassurance to our party.”

Congratulations flowed in from world leaders, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, and Ms. May spoke briefly with German Chancellor Angela Merkel after taking office. The White House has welcomed the new prime minister, and the State Department said it would have no trouble working with Mr. Johnson as foreign secretary.

Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters in Washington Wednesday that the bond between Britain and the U.S. “is frankly a relationship that goes beyond personalities.”

“We’re always going to be able to work with the British no matter who is occupying the role of foreign secretary because of our deep abiding special relationship with the United Kingdom,” he said, according to an Associated Press report.

However, in his final remarks as prime minister, Mr. Cameron said he was “delighted that for the second time in history, the new prime minister will be a woman, and once again, a Conservative.”

Shortly before his exit, Mr. Cameron said his six years as prime minister had been the “greatest honor” of his life. As he left 10 Downing Street for the final time, he said that he “wishes for nothing more than the continued success for this great country that I love so very much.”

This article was based in part on wire service reports.

• Erica Brosnan can be reached at ebrosnan@washingtontimes.com.

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