BRITISH PRIME MINISTER Theresa May has called for a general election to take place in the UK on 8 June.
May just made the surprise announcement at Downing Street, having previously ruled out a snap election.
She said she reached the decision “only recently and reluctantly” as it is necessary “to see us through Brexit and beyond”.
“The only way to guarantee stability and certainty for the years ahead is to hold this election and seek your support for the decisions I must take,” May said.
MPs will vote on the motion tomorrow. It will need a two-thirds majority to pass, a likely scenario given the Conservative majority in parliament.
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May stated: “Britain is leaving the European Union and there can be no turning back. And as we look to the future, the government has the right plan for negotiating our new relationship with Europe.
We want a deep and special partnership between a strong and successful European Union and a United Kingdom that is free to chart its own way in the world.
She said other political parties, including Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Scottish National Party (SNP), oppose the government’s approach.
“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. They are wrong.
“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.”
General elections are usually held in the UK every five years, with the next one being due in 2020.
May’s predecessor David Cameron stepped down as prime minister after Britain voted to leave the European Union last June.
The press conference was only flagged this morning and came as a surprise to many.
However, others expected an election to be called in an attempt to solidify the position of May’s Conservative Party ahead of Brexit negotiations.
Opinion polls put the Tories well ahead of its main rival Labour, which has been dogged by infighting since the election of Jeremy Corbyn as party leader.
May said the election will be “a choice between strong and stable leadership in the national interest with me as your leader” or a “weak and unstable” coalition of Labour and the Liberal Democrats.
Corbyn welcomed the announcement, saying Labour will back the vote in the House of Commons tomorrow
He said his party will offer the country “an effective alternative to a government that has failed to rebuild the economy, delivered falling living standards and damaging cuts to our schools and NHS”.
“In the last couple of weeks, Labour has set out policies that offer a clear and credible choice for the country. We look forward to showing how Labour will stand up for the people of Britain.”
Lib Dem leader Tim Farron said the election is the public’s “chance to change the direction of our country”.
If you want to avoid a disastrous hard Brexit. If you want to keep Britain in the single market. If you want a Britain that is open, tolerant and united, this is your chance.
“Only the Liberal Democrats can prevent a Conservative majority.”
Following the announcement, SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon tweeted that the Conservative Party see an opportunity to “force through a hard Brexit and impose deeper cuts”.
Sturgeon has called for a second independence referendum to be held in Scotland on foot of the Brexit vote.
Northern Ireland’s First Minister and Democratic Unionist Party leader Arlene Foster said the election will be “an opportunity for unionists to unite”. Meanwhile, Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said:
Sinn Féin is ready to contest this election and it will be an opportunity for voters to oppose Brexit and reject Tory cuts and austerity.
Speaking after a phone call with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland James Brokenshire, Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan said: “This announcement does not change the government’s commitment to ensuring the best possible outcome for Ireland in the upcoming Brexit negotiations where we will negotiate from a position of strength as one of the EU 27.
I am of course concerned about the impact of a UK General Election on the ongoing talks’ process in Northern Ireland and I conveyed these when I spoke with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland earlier today.
Flanagan added that Brokenshire “told me that his intention, announced last week, remains unchanged – namely, to bring forward legislation at Westminster in the coming days which will include a provision to allow a Northern Ireland Executive to be formed in early May”.