The U.K.’s Conservative Party made Home Secretary Theresa May prime-minister-to-be Monday, ending three weeks of leadership turmoil and political backbiting that began when Britons voted last month to leave the European Union.
Ms. May’s ascent puts a pro-EU figure in charge of the country’s thorny negotiations with European leaders to leave the 28-member bloc after 43 years. Like current Prime Minister David Cameron—who vowed to resign immediately after the Brexit vote—Ms. May tried to persuade voters to remain in the EU.
On Monday, she said she would move decisively to leave the bloc. “Brexit means Brexit and we are going to make a success of it,” she said in remarks outside the Houses of Parliament in Westminster.
Ms. May was one of the most experienced candidates who raised their hands to replace Mr. Cameron after the Brexit vote.
Challengers dropped out or were eliminated as allies became rivals, and Conservative members of Parliament held votes that whittled the field down to Ms. May and pro-Brexit member Andrea Leadsom. Would-be challenger Boris Johnson, the former London mayor and a central figure in the Leave campaign, didn’t run after a onetime ally, Justice Secretary Michael Gove, withdrew support. Mr. Gove decided to run himself but lost in voting by Conservative lawmakers.
Ms. Leadsom stepped aside unexpectedly on Monday amid weak party support and criticism from lawmakers after she suggested that Ms. May’s lack of children made her less qualified to be prime minister.
“All the other candidates shot each other or themselves,” Conservative lawmaker Crispin Blunt said. “[Ms. May] is the one who’s left standing because she’s steely and disciplined.”
Mr. Cameron said he would hold his final cabinet meeting on Tuesday and offer his resignation to Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace on Wednesday. That evening Ms. May is to become the new prime minister.
The resolution of a leadership battle that could have gone on for months gave a boost to British financial assets.
The pound rose from $1.2869 at 11:30 a.m. London time to above $1.30 an hour later. It was trading at $1.2999 in late New York trading on Monday. The FTSE 250, an index of middle-size stocks that earn 50% of their revenues inside the U.K., hit its highest level since the June 23 vote, rising more than 3.4% Monday afternoon. Hard-hit real-estate and banking shares rebounded strongly.