Prime minister calls for early election
LONDON — In a shock announcement, Prime Minister Theresa May on Tuesday called for an early general election to be held June 8 to seek a strong mandate as she negotiates Britain’s exit from the European Union.
May said she would ask the House of Commons on Wednesday to back her call for an election, just two years after the last vote and three years before the next scheduled date in May 2020.
She said that since Britons voted to leave the EU in June, the country had come together, but politicians had not. She said the political divisions “risk our ability to make a success of Brexit.”
At present, May’s governing Conservatives have a small majority, with 330 seats in the 650-seat House of Commons.
May triggered a two-year countdown to Britain’s exit from the EU last month, and negotiations to settle divorce terms and agree on a new relationship are expected to start within weeks. European Council President Donald Tusk tweeted that he had a “good phone call” with May about the election, and the council said the bloc’s Brexit plans were unchanged by the announcement. Leaders of EU states are due to adopt negotiating guidelines at an April 29 summit.
May said that if there is not an election soon, “the negotiations with the European Union will reach their most difficult stage in the runup to the next scheduled election.”
“Division in Westminster will risk our ability to make a success of Brexit and it will cause damaging uncertainty and instability to the country,” she said.
May said that “our opponents believe that because the government’s majority is so small, our resolve will weaken and that they can force us to change course” on leaving the EU.
“They are wrong,” she said. “They underestimate our determination to get the job done and I am not prepared to let them endanger the security of millions of working people across the country.”
An election is still a risk for May, and could widen divisions within the U.K. The country voted 52 per cent to leave the EU, but Scotland backed remaining by a large majority, and Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is seeking to hold a referendum on independence from the U.K.
British Prime Minister Theresa May speaks to the media in London on Tuesday. May wants an early general election as Britain prepares for negotiations on leaving the European Union.