British Prime Minister Theresa May called for an early election on June 8, saying she needed to strengthen her hand in divorce talks with the European Union by bolstering support for her Brexit plan.
Standing outside her Downing Street office on Tuesday, May said she had been reluctant to ask parliament to back her move to bring forward the poll from 2020, Reuters reports.
But, after thinking “long and hard” during a walking holiday, she decided it was necessary to try to stop the opposition “jeopardizing” her work on Brexit, the news agency said.
Sterling rose to a four-month high against the US dollar after the market bet that May would strengthen her parliamentary majority, which Deutsche Bank said would be a “game-changer” for the pound.
But the stronger pound helped push Britain’s main share index to close down 2.3 percent, its biggest one-day loss since June 27, days after Britain voted to leave the EU.
Some were surprised by May’s move – the Conservative prime minister has repeatedly said she does not want to be distracted by campaigning – but opinion polls give her a strong lead and the British economy has so far defied predictions of a slowdown.
Growth is faster than expected, consumer confidence is high and unemployment low, but the economy may be poised to pass its peak as consumers start to feel the strain from rising prices.
“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,” May said.
“Before Easter I spent a few days walking in Wales with my husband, thought about this long and hard, and came to the decision that to provide that stability and certainty for the future that this was the way to do it, to have an election,” she told ITV news.
May called US President Donald Trump, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other European leaders after the announcement, a spokesman said, without giving details of the conversations.
Britain joins a list of western European countries scheduled to hold elections this year. Votes in France in April and May, and in Germany in September, have the potential to reshape the political landscape around the two years of Brexit talks with the EU expected to start in earnest in June.
May is capitalizing on her runaway lead in the opinion polls and she could win around 100 additional seats in parliament.
A former interior minister, May was appointed prime minister after Britain’s vote to leave the European Union forced the resignation of her predecessor David Cameron. The election will be a vote on her performance so far.
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