By Dario Thuburn, AFP
LONDON — Prime Minister Theresa May on Tuesday called for an snap general election on June 8, in a surprise announcement as Britain prepares for delicate negotiations on leaving the European Union. “We need a general election and we need one now. We have at this moment a one-off chance to get this done … before the detailed talks begin,” said May in a policy U-turn that caught everyone off guard.
Speaking outside her Downing Street residence in London, May warned that “division in Westminster will risk our ability to make a success of Brexit.” She said parliament would be asked to vote Wednesday to decide on whether or not to hold an election. May justified her change of heart, saying: “I concluded the only way to guarantee certainty and security for years ahead is to hold this election.” The dramatic announcement caps nearly a year of tumult in British politics following the Brexit vote in June 2016 that included the resignation of May’s predecessor David Cameron and her rapid rise to power last year. A round of opinion polls over the Easter weekend also showed her Conservative Party far ahead of the main opposition Labour Party. The Conservatives polled at between 38 percent and 46 percent, with Labour at 23 percent to 29 percent, according to the polls by YouGov, ComRes and Opinium. The poll lead had prompted many senior Conservatives to call for an election, particularly as May will need a strong parliamentary majority as she seeks to negotiate Brexit. The Conservatives currently have a majority of just 17 from the last election in 2015 and some of their MPs have indicated they could vote against the government on key aspects of Brexit legislation. “Our opponents believe because the government’s majority is so small that our resolve will weaken and that they can force us to change. They are wrong,” May said on Tuesday.