May Wins Support From Parliament to Hold Early U.K. Election

  • U.K. Parliament authorizes snap general election on June 8
  • Labour says May ‘can’t be trusted’ as she rules out TV debates

May, Corbyn Have Heated Exchange Over the U.K Economy

U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May won by a landslide the approval she wanted for a June 8 snap election as she seeks to strengthen her mandate ahead of Brexit negotiations.

Lawmakers in the House of Commons voted 522 to 13 on Wednesday in favor of her plan to hold an election three years earlier than scheduled.

The result paves the way for an intense seven-week campaign in which the U.K.’s fraught relationship with the European Union will undergo scrutiny less than a year since the country voted in a referendum to leave the bloc.

U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May speaks in the House of Commons.

(Source: Parliamentary TV)

With polls showing May’s Conservatives with a commanding lead over her main rival, the prime minister is calculating she can increase her slim majority of just 17 lawmakers and negotiate the kind of Brexit she wants without being swayed by hard-liners in her party.

“Every vote for the Conservatives will make it harder for those who want to stop me from getting the job done,” the premier told the lower house.

Until Tuesday, May had repeatedly ruled out holding an early election, saying there would be no national vote until 2020. She changed her mind last week -- on a walking holiday with her husband -- after “reluctantly” coming to the conclusion that “game-playing” over Brexit among politicians back home would make negotiating with EU leaders much harder.

Sweet Spot

May timed the election to capitalize on a surge in her popularity, with polls showing that voters like how she’s handled Brexit so far and the economy holding up. Opinion polls show her Conservatives as many as 21 points ahead of the main opposition party -- Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour.

If she can extend her parliamentary majority, May will be able to silence critics who have opposed her own policies, not just on Brexit but also tax and education. What’s more, it means she is no longer prime minister by default after replacing David Cameron last July.

Rather than Corbyn, the biggest challenge is likely to come from the Liberal Democrats, the pro-EU party that was almost wiped out at the last election in 2015 after serving for five years in a coalition government led by May’s predecessor. Its leader, Tim Farron, is going to run against May’s vision of “the hardest form of Brexit.”

“Britain will get a much worse deal if Theresa May wins, particularly if she wins big,” Farron told Bloomberg Television.

May has ruled out televised debates, taking her pitch directly to millions of Britons. Without wanting to give out more details about what kind of Brexit strategy she will pursue, May is asking voters to trust her to deliver.

“Let us lay out our plans for Brexit, let us put forth our plans for the future of this great country, let us put our fate in the hands of the people and then let the people decide,” she told the Commons. “Every vote for the Conservatives will make me stronger when I negotiate for Britain with the European Union.”

— With assistance by Thomas Penny, and Nejra Cehic

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