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British Prime Minister Theresa May has announced she will seek an early election on June 8.
“I have just chaired a meeting of the cabinet where we agreed that the government should call a general election to be held on the 8th of June,” May said.
Speaking outside Number 10, May said the Cabinet had agreed to call an early election.
The move takes place against the backdrop of the country's decision to leave the European Union in last year's referendum.
Justifying the decision, May said: “The country is coming together but Westminster is not.”
She said the “division in Westminster will risk our ability to make a success of Brexit”.
Explaining her change of heart on an early election, May said: “I have concluded the only way to guarantee certainty and security for years ahead is to hold this election.”
May said she was acting now because of the opposition in parliament to the government's plans for Brexit.
“Our opponents believe because the government's majority is so small that our resolve will weaken and that they can force us to change. They are wrong,” she said.
“They underestimate our determination to get the job done and I am not prepared to let them endanger the security of millions of working people across the country, because what they are doing jeopardises the work we must do to prepare for Brexit at home and it weakens the government's negotiating position in Europe,” she said.
Meanwhile, the European Union has welcomed a snap British election that one of its leaders likened to a Hitchcock plot twist, but there was conspicuously little talk in Brussels of the vote halting Britain's exit from the bloc.
Instead, EU officials echoed Theresa May's hopes that a parliamentary poll on June 8 could strengthen her own hand in managing the Brexit negotiations which are due to start around the same time.
“We have some hope that this will lead to a strong leader in London that can negotiate with us with strong backing by the electorate,” an EU official said after Tuesday's surprise move.
EU negotiators have been concerned that division over Brexit among voters -- and within May's own party -- could make it harder to agree terms before March 2019 to ensure an orderly British withdrawal.
A collapse in talks would risk Britain simply crashing out of the Union when that deadline expires, leaving legal chaos.
After her predecessor narrowly lost a referendum gamble to keep Europe's second-ranked economy in the EU, Brussels once harboured hopes that Britain might have a change of heart under fellow Conservative May, who had favoured 'Remain' over Brexit.
However, her decision to quit the EU's barrier-free single market, confirmed when she launched the two-year Brexit countdown last month, saw that give way to a determination to close ranks across the bloc and drive a hard bargain with London to discourage imitators.
Few would relish the disruption a British about-face would now cause.
European Council President Donald Tusk spoke to May and quoted British master of suspense Alfred Hitchcock's recipe for a good movie in likening her dramatic move to a thriller plot: "It was Hitchcock who directed Brexit: first an earthquake and the tension rises," the former Polish premier tweeted.
But Tusk's spokesman said the EU would stick to its own plans, which should see negotiations starting in June after Tusk chairs a summit of the 27 other EU national leaders on April 29. “The UK elections do not change our EU27 plans,” he said.
Opinion polls show May easily winning a majority.
SOURCE: AAP/ THE AUSTRALIAN/PACNEWS
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