After the June 24th Brexit referendum, the world was uncertain about the evolution of the United Kingdom and its relationship with the EU in the near future. We often said that we didn't know whether the United Kingdom would officially launch the Article 50 process to leave the European Union at all – and how many months or years it would take for them to make the decision.
A major Brexit campaigner Boris Johnson didn't like the prospect of becoming a prime minister – a job he could have acquired already when Cameron did it a few years ago – and Nigel Farage left politics because he was apparently there for the only reason and the mission was accomplished.
So some people were asking whether someone in the U.K. is willing to lead the country through the Brexit process at all. And David Cameron was telling everybody that as a politician too closely associated with the losing side of the referendum – and, indeed, with the European Union bureaucracy itself – he will resign "by October".
So for a while, we didn't have an idea whether the process will be slow or fast. With hindsight, I think that it must have been obvious that these predictions by both Cameron and the fearmongers were silly.
Cameron's suggestion that he would be "ready to resign" but he would keep the job through October reminds me of something. Before my H1B U.S. visa expired on June 30th, 2007, I officially resigned. In the talks with the Harvard bureaucracy, I asked a cute question: May I still receive the summer salary in 2007? The answer was some laughter and No. Of course, I didn't even try to investigate whether there was a way to turn it into a Yes.
You know, that's exactly what Cameron expected. He wanted to be ready to resign but as a certified lame duck, he would still prefer to get all the summer salary, while making his country postpone all the process by some four months. Now, this is really silly. Four months are short relatively to the British history but they are still long relatively to what is actually needed to prepare the ignition of the Brexit process.
The timing suddenly accelerated and we were told that Cameron would resign by Wednesday night, some 19 days after the referendum. Theresa May – who supported the Remain campaign but seems absolutely ready to embrace the new reality ("Brexit means Brexit", she says; everyone should embrace the new reality just like she did) – will be Cameron's successor and the second female prime minister of the U.K. after Margaret Thatcher.
In the final fights between Theresa May and Andrea Leadsom, Leadsom has argued that she would be a better prime minister because she's also a mother. Now, this could be viewed as a method to hurt someone emotionally (I don't believe that May was hurt, however). On the other hand, I think it's a bizarre self-defense for someone who wants to become the prime minister. When you're a mother, maybe you should do your laundry and be sure you always have enough milk, Mrs Leadsom. Women's being mothers is what often naturally removes them from their career paths. Don't get me wrong: they're probably better in finding diapers in the supermarket and similar things but it's not quite certain that those are the skills that a prime minister needs.
At any rate, Leadsom quit the contest, clearing the way for Theresa May. May has already adopted some patriotic slogans of Nigel Farage (but also Ed Miliband). Instead of the 2017 time tables she suggests ("Article 50 should only be invoked when the U.K. negotiation strategy is clear", she says), I expect her to officially start the Article 50 process of leaving the European Union in a matter of weeks, pleasing all the people on both sides who want the actual Brexit events to unfold as soon as possible.
Theresa May has made some conservative statements, some slightly populist left-wing statements, but she's promising e.g. because she's no greenie and there's a chance that her non-green attitude will terminate the alarmist rituals not only in the U.K. but also in the EU.