LONDON • British Interior Minister Theresa May and her eurosceptic rival Andrea Leadsom emerged yesterday as the two candidates who will battle to become Britain's next prime minister and lead the country out of the European Union.
Ms May won 199 votes and Ms Leadsom 84 in a second ballot of lawmakers of the governing Conservative Party. Justice Secretary Michael Gove took just 46 votes and was eliminated from the race.
"This vote shows that the Conservative Party can come together, and under my leadership it will," Ms May told supporters.
Grassroots Conservatives across Britain will now vote to decide whether Ms May or Ms Leadsom becomes Britain's first woman prime minister since Mrs Margaret Thatcher was forced from office in 1990.
The result of the contest is expected by Sept 9, meaning businesses and investors must endure two more months of uncertainty over who will lead the huge task of disentangling Britain's economy from the EU while trying to safeguard trade and investment.
Prime Minister David Cameron said last month he was stepping down after voters, many of them swayed by concerns over high immigration and a desire to reclaim "independence" from Brussels, rejected his entreaties to stay in the EU.
Ms May, 59, has served for the past six years in one of the toughest portfolios in government. Ms Leadsom, 53, is a junior energy minister who has never served in the Cabinet.