LONDON • Home Secretary Theresa May, the front runner in the contest to be Britain's next prime minister, said yesterday that the country had to be clear about its negotiating stance on a post-Brexit deal with the European Union before triggering Article 50.
Ms May, who campaigned for a Remain vote in the June 23 referendum, also said a strong message from the Leave vote was concern about immigration, which the next government needed to bring down to sustainable levels.
Prime Minister David Cameron has said his successor would have to decide when to trigger Article 50 of the EU's Lisbon Treaty, the formal step that will begin the process of negotiating the terms of Britain's exit.
"What is important is that we do this in the right timescale and we do it to get the right deal for the UK," Ms May told ITV television, reiterating that she would not trigger the article this year.
One of her main rivals for the leadership of the ruling Tory party, Ms Andrea Leadsom, said yesterday that she would be quick to start the process of negotiating the terms of Britain's exit.
Asked when she would trigger Article 50, Ms Leadsom declined to give an exact framework but made clear she thought it should happen as quickly as possible. "We need to get on with it, we need to seize the opportunity," she told the BBC.
Ms Leadsom, a prominent Leave campaigner, has emerged in the early stages of the contest to succeed Mr Cameron as one of the strongest candidates from the Brexit camp.
Ms May, though, remains in the lead and moved closer to winning the leadership as more lawmakers lined up behind her. She had the backing of 102 Tory lawmakers by late Saturday, 16 more than she had the day before, according to a tally on the Conservative Home blog.
Less clear is the battle for second place. Work and Pensions Secretary Stephen Crabb and Justice Secretary Michael Gove each has 21 lawmakers. Ms Leadsom also has 21 and, perhaps more importantly, the momentum.
Many of the party's 330 members of Parliament have yet to commit themselves publicly.
Starting tomorrow, lawmakers will vote in secret ballots to whittle the list down to two. Then the party's approximately 150,000 members nationwide will make the final choice in a postal ballot, with the result expected by Sept 9.