Theresa May announces June 8 General Election - UK needs Brexit mandate, says PM
Jeremy Corbyn welcomes 'decision to give the British people the chance to vote for a government that will put the interests of the majority first'
Theresa May has called an early general election for June 8 in an announcement which has stunned Westminster.
The Prime Minister had repeatedly denied that she would call an election before the next scheduled poll in 2020.
But following a Cabinet meeting at Downing Street she said she would go to the country this year.
In an unusual move, Number 10 did not announce what subject she would address.
News of the statement sent the pound lower by 0.3% against the US dollar to trade at 1.251, having traded higher by around 0.17% earlier in the morning.
Versus the euro, the pound slumped more than 0.4% to trade at 1.175, losing previous gains of more than 0.1%.
There will be a Commons vote on the proposed election on Wednesday.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has welcomed the decision.
Justifying the decision, Mrs May said:
The country is coming together but Westminster is not
Mrs May suggested she reached her decision over the Easter parliamentary recess, following previous denials that she would call an early vote.
"I have only recently and reluctantly come to this conclusion," the PM said.
"Since I became Prime Minister I have said that there should be no election until 2020.
"But now I have concluded that the only way to guarantee certainty and stability for the years ahead is to hold this election and seek your support for the decisions I must take."
The move takes place against the backdrop of the country's decision to leave the European Union in last year's referendum.
Mrs May said she was acting now because of the opposition in Parliament to the Government's plans for Brexit.
Without a snap general election, Mrs May said "political game-playing" in Westminster would continue and lead to negotiations with the EU reaching their "most difficult stage" in the run-up to the previously scheduled 2020 vote.
"Division in Westminster will risk our ability to make a success of Brexit, and it will cause damaging uncertainty and instability to the country," she said.
"So we need a general election and we need one now.
"Because we have at this moment a one-off chance to get this done, while the European Union agrees its negotiating position and before the detailed talks begin."
"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 under-estimate 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."
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn welcomed the news.
He said in a statement: "I welcome the Prime Minister's decision to 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.
"In the last couple of weeks, Labour has set out policies that offer a clear and credible choice for the country. We look forward to showing how Labour will stand up for the people of Britain."
Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said the Tories "see a chance to move the UK to the right, force through a hard Brexit and impose deeper cuts" and added "let's stand up for Scotland".
The First Minister accused the Prime Minister of using the surprise June 8 poll to seek to make the UK more right wing and "force through a hard Brexit and impose deeper cuts".
Ms Sturgeon said on Twitter: "The Tories see a chance to move the UK to the right, force through a hard Brexit and impose deeper cuts. Let's stand up for Scotland."
Stormont election results 2017 - select a constituency - North Antrim - East Antrim - South Antrim - North Belfast - East Belfast - South Belfast - West Belfast - Strangford - South Down - Lagan Valley - Upper Bann - Newry and Armagh - Fermanagh & South Tyrone - West Tyrone - Mid Ulster - East Londonderry - Foyle - North Down
DUP leader Arlene Foster said the decision provided people in Northern Ireland the opportunity to "vote for the Union".
She said: "The Prime Minister’s decision to go to Parliament to seek a General Election on 8th June provides the people of Northern Ireland with the opportunity to vote for the Union.
"The Democratic Unionist Party has been a strong voice for Northern Ireland at Westminster and we have used the mandate given to us to ensure the interests of Northern Ireland are to the fore.
"The forthcoming election will be an opportunity for unionists to unite around a strong Democratic Unionist Party that will advocate for them in Parliament."
SDLP leader Colum Eastwood questioned the Prime Minister calling a General Election in the middle of the Stormont crisis.
It shows you how much .@TheresaMayPM thinks/cares about our peace process that she'd call an election in the middle of talks.— Colum Eastwood (@columeastwood) April 18, 2017
David Cameron praised Theresa May's "brave decision" to call an election.
Mrs May is currently working to the mandate achieved by Mr Cameron, her predecessor as prime minister, in the 2015 general election, but will now try to gain support for her own programme for government.
Mr Cameron tweeted: "Brave - and right - decision by PM @Theresa_May. My very best wishes to all Conservative candidates."
Mrs May replaced Mr Cameron as PM and Tory leader after he resigned following his failure to secure a Remain vote in last June's EU referendum.