Clearly anxious about her thin majority in Parliament before complicated negotiations on the British exit from the European Union, Prime Minister Theresa May on Tuesday called for a snap election for June 8, a vote that her opponents will bill as a verdict on her tough brand of “Brexit.”
In breaking her often-repeated vow not to call an early election before 2020, Mrs. May emphasized the need for unity in Parliament before undertaking what promises to be complex and tortuous negotiations on Britain’s exit from the bloc.
“The country is coming together, but Westminster is not,” Mrs. May said in a sudden appearance outside the prime minister’s residence at 10 Downing Street, adding that she had “only recently and reluctantly come to this conclusion.”
Having fired the starting gun for two years of talks with Brussels and the other 27 members of the European Union only last month, Mrs. May is already facing divisions within her own Conservative Party. She is clearly counting on a strong performance in June — before those talks get serious and difficult, before the British economy is seen to be hit and before critical German elections in the fall — to carry her government through the exit, hard or soft, which she has promised to deliver.
The financial markets bid up the pound on the news, apparently anticipating a Conservative sweep that would give Mrs. May the mandate to override hard-liners in her own party who might resist concessions to the European Union in return for market access — the so-called soft Brexit.
Certainly, the Conservatives’ election prospects look promising. They are riding high in the opinion polls, with the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn in disarray, the centrist Liberal Democrats weak and the shambolic far-right U.K. Independence Party, if anything, more a threat to Labour than to the Tories.
Although the margins are sure to tighten, the Conservatives hold a double-digit lead over Labour, which, if it holds up, would translate into a working majority in Parliament of over 100 seats, compared with only 17 seats now.
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SOURCE: NY Times, Steven Erlanger