UK law­mak­ers back prime min­is­ter’s call for June 8 elec­tion

Malta Independent - - WORLD -

Bri­tish law­mak­ers voted by a re­sound­ing 522 to 13 yes­ter­day to back Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May's call for a snap elec­tion on June 8. The re­sult eas­ily sur­passed the two-thirds ma­jor­ity of the 650 law­mak­ers needed to trig­ger an early vote. There were also a num­ber of ab­sten­tions. May says hold­ing an elec­tion in June, rather than as sched­uled in 2020, will give the coun­try "cer­tainty and sta­bil­ity" as it ne­go­ti­ates its depar­ture from the European Union. May is hop­ing to gain a big­ger ma­jor­ity in Par­lia­ment for her Con­ser­va­tives, strength­en­ing her ne­go­ti­at­ing hand with the EU. The op­po­si­tion Labour Party and Lib­eral Democrats wel­comed the chance to put their poli­cies to vot­ers, though the Scot­tish Na­tional Party called the elec­tion a cyn­i­cal po­lit­i­cal ploy. May dis­missed crit­i­cism of her move to send vot­ers back to polling booths for the third time in two years, af­ter a May 2015 na­tional elec­tion and a June 2016 ref­er­en­dum on EU mem­ber­ship, She said that "Brexit isn't just about the let­ter that says we want to leave. It's about ... get­ting the right deal from Europe." Bri­tain's next na­tional elec­tion had not been due un­til for 2020, a year af­ter the sched­uled com­ple­tion of two years of EU exit talks. May told The Sun news­pa­per that if Bri­tain were still ne­go­ti­at­ing with the bloc in the run-up to a na­tional elec­tion, "the Euro­peans might have seen that as a time of weak­ness when they could push us." The early bal­lot will give the prime min­is­ter — or her re­place­ment — more time to im­ple­ment Brexit be­fore an­other elec­tion. EU of­fi­cials say Bri­tain's sur­prise elec­tion will not in­ter­rupt the bloc's prepa­ra­tions for Brexit talks — though they will slightly de­lay the start of ne­go­ti­a­tions. Lead­ers of EU states are due to

adopt ne­go­ti­at­ing guide­lines at an April 29 sum­mit, and the bloc will pre­pare de­tailed plans for the talks with Bri­tain by late May. It had been hoped talks could start by the end of that month, but EU Com­mis­sion spokesman Mar­gari­tis Schi­nas said Wed­nes­day that "the real po­lit­i­cal ne­go­ti­a­tions" with Bri­tain would not start till af­ter the June 8 elec­tion. May's Con­ser­va­tives cur­rently hold 330 of the 650 seats in the House of Com­mons. Opin­ion polls give them a big lead over the Labour op­po­si­tion, and May is gam­bling that an elec­tion will de­liver her a per­sonal man­date from vot­ers and pro­duce a big­ger Con­ser­va­tive ma­jor­ity in Par­lia­ment. Now that law­mak­ers have ap­proved the elec­tion, Par­lia­ment will be dis­solved on May 2. Un­of­fi­cial elec­tion­eer­ing kicked off in the weekly Prime Min­is­ter's Ques­tions ses­sion in the House of Com­mons, as May traded barbs with Labour leader Jeremy Cor­byn. Against a back­drop of rau­cous cheers and jeers, May called Cor­byn "not fit to lead" and said his left-wing eco­nomic poli­cies "would bank­rupt this coun­try." Cor­byn said years of Con­ser­va­tive aus­ter­ity had led to fall­ing liv­ing stan­dards and called May "a prime min­is­ter who can't be trusted." May ruled out par­tic­i­pat­ing in tele­vised de­bates with other lead­ers. TV de­bates don't have a long his­tory in Bri­tish politics, but were a fea­ture of the last two elec­tions, in 2010 and 2015. "We won't be do­ing television de­bates," May said, adding that politi­cians should spend elec­tion cam­paigns "out and about" meet­ing vot­ers. Lib­eral Demo­crat leader Tim Far­ron said that broad­cast­ers should hold de­bates any­way, with an empty chair in May's place. "The prime min­is­ter's at­tempt to dodge scru­tiny shows how she holds the pub­lic in con­tempt," he said.

Pho­to­graph: AP

A sil­hou­ette of the Houses of Par­lia­ment and El­iz­a­beth Tower con­tain­ing Big Ben, cen­tre, at dusk, in West­min­ster, Lon­don on Tues­day. Bri­tain's Prime Min­is­ter, Theresa May, an­nounced Tues­day a snap gen­eral elec­tion to be held on June 8.

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