British Prime Minister Theresa May on Tuesday announced a snap general election for June 8, saying that political unity is crucial as her government prepares to begin Brexit negotiations with the European Union.
The unexpected move is a complete reversal of her earlier stance that a general election would be held only as per schedule in 2020.
The pound plunged as the announcement ahead of the announcement made around 11 am London time, but sharply reversed its direction afterwards. The stock-market benchmark FTSE 100 has remained lower since the news.
In a surprise statement at 10 Downing Street, May said the U.K. needed stability, certainty and strong leadership after the June 2016 referendum in which Britons chose to leave the EU. Her government has delivered that, she claimed.
Consumer confidence remained high, record numbers of jobs were created, and economic growth exceeded all expectations, May stressed.
"Britain is leaving the European Union and there can be no turning back...We have the right plan. However, other parties are opposing her government's Brexit plans." She urged for unity in the Westminster.
"The country is coming together, but Westminster is not," May said.
May asserted that she took the latest decision to seek an early election "only recently and reluctantly."
"I have concluded that the only way to guarantee certainty and stability for the years ahead is to hold this election," May said.
"So we need a general election and we need one now. We have at this moment a one off chance to get this done."
She is set to move a motion in the Commons on Wednesday for holding the snap election on June 8.
UK Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn welcomed an early election, saying it will give "the British people the chance to vote for a government that will put the interests of the majority first."
"Labour will be offering 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," Corbyn said.
The Labour party has proposed policies that offer a clear and credible choice for the country over the past couple of weeks, Corbyn added.
Scottish National Party leader Nicola Sturgeon called May's announcement "one of the most extraordinary u-turns in recent political history."
"It shows that Theresa May is once again putting the interests of her party ahead of those of the country," she said.
Sturgeon accused the Tory Party of trying to grab control of government for many years to come and moving the UK further to the right - forcing through a hard Brexit and imposing deeper cuts in the process.
The June snap poll will once again give people the opportunity to reject the Tories' narrow, divisive agenda, as well as reinforcing the democratic mandate which already exists for giving the people of Scotland a choice on their future, she added.
UK Independence Party named May's decision to call a snap poll "cynical." The party leader Paul Nuttall said the decision was driven more by the weakness of Labour Party rather than the good of the country.
May would need a two-thirds majority or support of around 434 MPs in the Commons to over-ride the Fixed-term Parliaments Act to hold an early election.
'Yes' votes from the 330 MPs of the Conservatives and Labour's 229 MPs can secure her majority.
by RTT Staff Writer
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