LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 18:  Prime Minister Theresa May makes a statement to the nation in Downing Street on April 18, 2017 in London, United Kingdom. The Prime Minister has called a general election for the United Kingdom to be held on June 8, the last election was held in 2015 with a Conservative party majority win.  (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
Theresa May calls for snap general election
01:10 - Source: CNN
London CNN  — 

British Prime Minister Theresa May has stunned the UK political world by calling for an early general election, seeking a stronger mandate in talks over leaving the European Union.

In an unexpected statement at Downing Street, May said she was seeking a vote on June 8, less than halfway through the government’s five-year term.

Opposition parties said they would not block the move, sending Westminster into full-throttle election mode.

The European Union brushed off May’s announcement, saying it would not affect the negotiations on Britain’s departure. But May’s decision means that Europe’s three most powerful nations – France, Germany and Britain – will be convulsed by internal election campaigns as the clock ticks on the two-year deadline to complete Brexit negotiations.

Key developments

  • MPs must approve decision to dissolve Parliament part-way through full term.
  • Vote will be held in Parliament on Wednesday.
  • May had full support of Cabinet and had spoken to the Queen.
  • Opposition parties say they will not block move to hold election on June 8.
  • Theresa May likely to substantially increase her slim majority.
LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 18:  Prime Minister Theresa May makes a statement to the nation in Downing Street on April 18, 2017 in London, United Kingdom. The Prime Minister has called a general election for the United Kingdom to be held on June 8, the last election was held in 2015 with a Conservative party majority win.  (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
UK PM calls for general election: Full speech
06:53 - Source: CNN

May, who commands only a slim majority in parliament’s lower House of Commons, said that a new mandate would strengthen her hand in Brexit talks.

A general election would end the attempts of opposition parties and members of the House of Lords to thwart her Brexit plans, she said. “If we do not hold a general election now, their political game playing will continue,” she told reporters at Downing Street.

“At this moment of enormous national significance, there should be unity here in Westminster, but instead there is division. The country is coming together, but Westminster is not,” she added. “We need a general election and we need one now.”

READ: May’s full speech

Her decision is a sharp reversal of policy – since taking over as Prime Minister, May had repeatedly ruled out an early election. May said she changed her mind on a recent walking holiday with her husband in Wales.