Saying it is “the only way to guarantee certainty and stability for the years ahead,” British Prime Minister Theresa May on Tuesday called for early elections June 8, in a move she hopes will give her a stronger position as she negotiates Brexit, Britain’s departure from the European Union.
The weeks since Britain invoked Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty on the European Union and triggered the two-year Brexit process have been marked by protests by Brexit opponents led by the Labor Party and Scottish executive Nicola Sturgeon. Analysts said May’s shock decision to call elections long before their next due date in 2020 was a means to consolidate the Conservatives’ power and put the bickering behind.
Labor Party leader Jeremy Corbyn has threatened to work to derail May’s plan for negotiating post-Brexit trade deals, and criticized the British leader’s calls for reducing taxes and regulations to attract investment after Britain leaves the EU. At the same time, the Scottish National Party has threatened to vote against a bill to formally repeal Britain’s EU membership.
The opposition threatens to muddy May’s work at a critical time when trade deals are to be negotiated.
“Britain is leaving the European Union and there can be no turning back,” May said in announcing her call for an early election outside No. 10 Downing Street on Tuesday. “We will regain control of our own money, our own laws and our own borders and we will be free to strike trade deals with old friends and new partners all around the world.”
“This is the right approach, and it is in the national interest. But the other political parties oppose it,” she said. “At this moment of enormous national significance, there should be unity here in Westminster, but instead there is division."
The British leader challenged opposition parties to band together on June 8, a move analysts say is a risky but calculated move for May, given the Labor Party’s worst popularity slump in a century.
“This is your moment to show you mean it, to show you are not opposing the government for the sake of it, to show that you do not treat politics as a game,” May said.
With a 72 percent turnout in a referendum last year, British voters decided on the question: “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?” Fifty-two percent voted to leave, while 48 percent voted to remain.
Assuming May’s call for early elections gets parliamentary approval when it comes up for a vote on Wednesday, the prime minister hopes June 8 will settle remaining questions.