11 key challenges facing Theresa May as she takes over as Prime Minister


What are the big items in Theresa May's inbox as she takes up her new job as Prime Minister?

1. Brexit

Remain supporters demonstrate in Parliament Square

This is the big one. May was in the Remain camp in the referendum but kept a low profile, and has made clear she will implement the vote to leave the European Union. She will appoint a Cabinet-level minister at the head of a Brexit department to lead the process, but has indicated she will not hurry to table the Article 50 notification which triggers two years of negotiations with Brussels. Europe has not in the past been a big part of the new PM's agenda, but it threatens to dominate the first years of her premiership.

2. World trade

US President Barack Obama

The flipside to Brexit is the freedom - promised by Leave campaigners - to extend the UK's trade links with the rest of the world. As a member of the EU, Britain cannot forge its own trade deals with giants like the US, China and India, but once it leaves these will become vital to future economic success. May can be expected to focus on preparing the ground for such deals, and making sure that the UK is not "at the back of the queue", as Barack Obama warned.

3. Deficit reduction

George Osborne

George Osborne's pledge to get the UK into surplus by 2020 has been ditched in recognition of the slowdown expected because of Brexit, leaving May with the task of setting out a new, less rapid, trajectory for fiscal consolidation, which is likely to mean more borrowing for investment. Her comment earlier this week that tax is "the price we pay for living in a civilised society" appeared to hint at a possible shift away from Osborne's preference for spending cuts over hikes in taxation.

4. Corporate reform

Theresa May

May surprised many observers with a campaign speech on Monday in which she set out a radical package of reforms designed to rein in corporate excesses, including worker representation in the boardroom, curbs on bonuses, the publication of "pay multiple" data showing the gap between the salaries of bosses and staff and a clampdown on corporate and individual tax avoidance and evasion.

5. Infrastucture investment

Image of the Birmingham and Fazeley viaduct, part of the proposed route for the HS2 high speed rail scheme

The new PM has signalled her intention to stimulate the economy with spending on infrastructure, but she will have to decide whether cash should go into relatively small-scale "shovel-ready" schemes which can deliver swift returns, or whether she should press ahead with controversial and long-term major projects such as the HS2 rail link between London and the Midlands.

6. Airport expansion

Plane flies above a Heathrow sign

Before entering government, May, whose Maidenhead constituency is close to Heathrow, opposed a third runway at the west London airport on noise and environmental grounds. She must now decide whether to overturn the recommendation of last year's Davies Report that the third runway is the best option to expand air capacity in the South-East. Her arrival in Downing Street is thought to have given fresh hope to supporters of Gatwick.

7. House building

Aerial of a housing estate in Edgware in North West London

The new PM has indicated she is determined to tackle the UK's long-standing problem with housing which has seen construction fail to keep up with demand for decades.

8. Industrial strategy

David Cameron looks at an industrial fan

May has said she will deliver a strategy to "get the whole economy firing" by encouraging investment in research and development, prioritising low-cost and reliable energy supply, supporting the growth of regional cities and giving ministers new powers to block company takeovers which are not in the national interest.

9. Trident renewal

HMS Vengance

David Cameron set a date of July 18 for a vote on renewing the UK's ageing fleet of nuclear submarines, at a time when he expected still to be in office for the debate. Instead, it will be one of May's first parliamentary duties, but will present her with few difficulties compared to her opposite number Jeremy Corbyn whose party is deeply split on the issue.

10. Scotland

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon with Krissii Rodgers, goalkeeper for the Scotland women team

The Brexit vote has renewed demands for independence for Scotland, where a large majority voted to remain in the EU. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has set in train preparations for a possible second referendum, but it is not yet clear whether this will become reality.

11. An early election

A polling station sign is put up outside Kitson Hall in Barnes

May has firmly set her face against the snap election being demanded by opposition parties. But she will be keenly aware of the damage done to Gordon Brown's premiership by the perception that he failed to seek a personal mandate from voters. Having been made Prime Minister on the back of just 199 votes from Tory MPs, she may be tempted to take advantage of Labour's current disarray and seek to increase her wafer-thin majority by going to the polls before the scheduled date of May 2020.