Editorial: Britain can move forward with Prime Minister Theresa May

Many in Britain will be breathing more easily knowing a new Prime Minister is being sworn in today. It will be a relief to them, regardless of whether they voted to leave or remain in the European Union.

Britain has lacked a sense of direction since David Cameron announced his intention to step down and leaders of the Brexit campaign failed for various reasons to step up. Voters who followed their advice to "leave" have a right to feel abandoned.

Responsible leadership does not end with victory in a vote count, that should be just the beginning for those who have done their utmost to bring about such an important change in a country's direction.

But perhaps all sides are relieved that the likes of Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage are not pressing claims for power, and that both candidates from the leavers among Conservative MPs have given way to the woman who will move into Downing St today, Theresa May.

It is Britain's good fortune that the other MP who was to be submitted to a party vote in September, Andrea Leadsom, displayed her lack of judgment with a remark about childlessness and sensibly withdrew from the contest. That has saved Britain drifting for another two months waiting for a new Prime Minister to be chosen.

Theresa May sounds like exactly the leader Britain needs at this moment. She voted to remain in the EU but did not take a prominent part in the referendum debate and now clearly accepts the result unequivocally.

By all accounts she has been a practical, no-nonsense Home Secretary and has held that sometimes contentious post longer than most.

Facing the need to negotiate Britain's exit, she has said the formal notice of Britain's intention, which would trigger the negotiation, should not be given before the end of the year.

That seems to be the wish of all sides in Britain, even those most determined to leave are now in no hurry to go. They were assured by their erstwhile leaders that Britain could keep trade access without accepting the easy movement of people within the EU, and that Britain's financial contribution to the EU could be redirected to the National Health Service.

Theresa May sounds like exactly the leader Britain needs at this moment. She voted to remain in the EU but did not take a prominent part in the referendum debate and now clearly accepts the result unequivocally.

Now they realise that for states outside the EU, such as Norway, access to its market requires a contribution to its budget. Britain will probably need to negotiate some mutual residency rights too if London is to remain the financial capital of Europe and a base for business across the continent.

It is in the interests of everyone that these issues are resolved as quickly as possible. Business and markets in Europe and the rest of the world need an end to the uncertainties left by the referendum result.

The worst thing now would be for months to go by without formal notice from Britain and for uncertainty to arise about whether Brexit will really happen after all.

The new Prime Minister appears to have much in common with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. If two practical women sit down to sort this out sensibly, without recriminations or delay, the world will be relieved.

- NZ Herald

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