British Prime Minister Theresa May has called a snap election for June 8, saying she needs a solid mandate to negotiate the country’s exit from the European Union.
Opposition parties have blocked the government’s Brexit agenda and she wants strong backing heading into the negotiations with the EU that will last at least two years, she said Tuesday, adding that an election is “necessary to secure the strong and stable leadership the country needs to see us through Brexit and beyond.”
Under Britain’s fixed-term law, an election cannot be held until 2020 unless Parliament votes by a two-thirds majority to hold an early vote. The Labour Party and Liberal Democrats have indicated that they would support an early vote. Ms. May said she will introduce a motion in Parliament on Wednesday calling for an early election.
Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron welcomed the election call as a chance to change the direction of the 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.”
The election call is a sharp reversal for Ms. May, who has consistently said since the Brexit referendum last June that she would not call a snap election.
“I’m not going to be calling a snap election,” she told the BBC last September. “I’ve been very clear that I think we need that period of time, that stability to be able to deal with the issues that the country is facing and have that election in 2020.”
However, her Conservative party, which has a slim majority of 16 seats, has been riding high in opinion polls, with some putting the Tories 20 points ahead of Labour. And the Conservatives recently won a by-election in a riding in northern England that had been a Labour stronghold.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has also faced a series of leadership challenges in the last year and has a divided caucus.
Mr. Corbyn indicated that he will also support the election call.
“I welcome the Prime Minister’s decision to give the British people the chance to vote for a government that will put the interests of the majority first.”
Polls put support for the Tories at around 42 per cent versus 27 per cent for Labour.
Ms. May acknowledged Tuesday that she had changed her mind, but she said that “the only way to guarantee certainty and stability for the year ahead is to hold this election.”
PAUL WALDIE – EUROPEAN CORRESPONDENT
LONDON — The Globe and Mail
Published Tuesday, Apr. 18, 2017 6:09AM EDT
Last updated Tuesday, Apr. 18, 2017 7:34AM EDT