In a surprise development, the British Prime Minister Theresa May has announced a snap Westminster general election for June 8th.
Although some recent polls giving her Conservative Party a huge lead over its Labour rivals of over 20%, May said she had only recently come to the decision to hold an election.
Speaking from a podium in front of Number 10 Downing Street, May said her country needs an election now because other parties are opposed to the government’s Brexit plans. She said she had only recently come to this conclusion.
Brexit would allow the ‘United Kingdom’ to “regain control of its laws and borders” but the other parties were plotting to defeat it. She said she is not prepared to allow her opponents to jeopardise the Brexit negotiations.
“If there is not an election now, the game-playing will continue,” she said.
She challenged the opposition parties to accept an early election. “Let the people decide,” she said. May said it is “with reluctance” that she called an election, but it is “with determination” that she will fight it.
The British Prime Minister had repeatedly denied that she would call an election before the next scheduled poll in 2020.
Explaining her change of heart on an early election, Mrs May said: “I have concluded the only way to guarantee certainty and security for the years ahead is to hold this election.”
She concluded by saying it was “with reluctance” that she reached her decision but added: “It is with strong conviction that I believe it is necessary to secure a strong and stable leadership this country needs.”
For the north of Ireland, there is already speculation that, based on the party strengths shown in the March Assembly election, a Westminster election would create serious difficulties for the SDLP and Ulster Unionists. Sinn Fein could be expected to make gains in South Down, Foyle, and Fermanagh/South Tyrone. North Belfast would be a toss-up between it and the DUP, who could also be expected to make gains in South Belfast and South Antrim.
The announcement also creates a very real deadline for the Stormont talks. There is now the strong likelihood that, if the current talks fail to make substantial progress, the British government will set the same date of June 8th for a fresh Assembly election.