Who could have predicted in February that, come July 13, David Cameron would be out as British prime minister and Theresa May would be on her way to meet Queen Elizabeth, where she was asked to form another Conservative government? After all, when Cameron first called for a referendum to determine whether Britain would stay in the European Union, few observers gave Brexit supporters much chance of success. But what seemed at the time among many to be a smart decision proved to be one of the greatest political miscalculations of all time. The stunning Brexit victory sent political and economic shockwaves around the world, and are still reverberating today. But May, who take her place yesterday on the Tory front bench as the new British prime minister—the second woman in British politics, the first being Margaret Thatcher, to be prime minister—is more than qualified to lead the U.K. through Brexit.
Euel Elliott is a professor of public policy and political economy and associate dean in the School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences at the University of Texas at Dallas.
The Brexit victory has certainly upended British politics. Cameron, fresh off a stunning general election victory in May of last year when he led the Tories to a comfortable governing majority in the House of Commons, seemed set for another four or five years as prime minister (general elections in Britain are required to be held no longer than five years from the previous election, but the government can always call an election before that deadline). His miscalculation on Brexit shattered those plans, and immediately following the vote, announced his resignation as prime minister, pending the Conservative Party’s selection of a new leader, who by virtue of his or her party’s being in the majority in parliament, would automatically become prime minister.