Prime Minister Theresa May “reluctantly” called on Tuesday for early elections in order to ensure a strong leadership for London’s exit negotiations from the European Union.
The election has been set for June 8.
May said that Britain’s opposition parties risked worsening her negotiating hand in divorce talks with the EU by opposing her Brexit plan.
“It was with reluctance that I decided the country needs this election, but it is with strong conviction that I say it is necessary to secure the strong and stable leadership the country needs to see us through Brexit and beyond,” she said on the doorstep of her Downing Street office.
May, who was appointed prime minister after the country voted in favor of Brexit in June last year, enjoys a large lead in the opinion polls, with 50 percent saying she would be the best prime minister. The leader of the main opposition Labor Party, Jeremy Corbyn, won 14 percent, pollster YouGov said.
But she must first win the support of two-thirds of the parliament for her call for an early election.
Corbyn later voiced his support for May’s call for early polls.
The pound strengthened by almost half a cent against the dollar as May spoke, reflecting investor relief that earlier rumors of a shock resignation did not transpire. Ten-year British government bond yields rose slightly.
May said she would introduce legislation on Wednesday to pave the way for the early election. Under current legislation, the next election was not scheduled to take place until 2020.
May said this was a one-off chance to get an election done while the EU was agreeing on its negotiating position.
She said the government had the right plan to negotiate Brexit, and there would be no change of course.
She said that since Britons voted to leave the EU in June, the country had come together, but politicians had not.
Under Britain’s Fixed-Term Parliaments Act, the prime minister can call an election if two-thirds of lawmakers vote for it.
Since becoming prime minister last July in the aftermath of Britain’s vote to leave the EU, May had consistently said she would not seek an early election.