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.
- 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.
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.”
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.