UK prime minister defends decision to seek snap election

UK prime minister defends decision to seek snap election

LONDON — British Prime Minister Theresa May on Wednesday defended her decision to call an early election for June, saying it would strengthen the government’s hand in negotiations to leave the European Union.

May dismissed criticism of her move to send voters back to polling booths for the third time in two years, after a May 2015 national election and a June 2016 referendum on EU membership,

She said that “Brexit isn’t just about the letter that says we want to leave. It’s about … getting the right deal from Europe.”

Britain’s next national election is currently scheduled for 2020, a year after the scheduled completion of two years of EU exit talks.

May told The Sun newspaper that if Britain were still negotiating with the bloc in the run-up to a national election, “the Europeans might have seen that as a time of weakness when they could push us.”

An early ballot, which May wants to hold June 8, will give the prime minister — or her replacement — more time to implement Brexit before another election.

May also told the BBC that her political opponents were intent on “frustrating the Brexit process” — even after Parliament authorized divorce talks with the EU.

EU officials say Britain’s surprise election will not interrupt the bloc’s preparations for Brexit talks — though they will slightly delay the start of negotiations. Leaders of EU states are due to adopt negotiating guidelines at an April 29 summit, and the bloc will prepare detailed plans for the talks with Britain by late May.

It had been hoped talks could start by the end of that month, but EU Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas said Wednesday that “the real political negotiations” with Britain would not start till after the June 8 election.

May’s Conservatives currently hold 330 of the 650 seats in the House of Commons. Opinion polls give them a big lead over the Labour opposition, and May is gambling that an election will deliver her a personal mandate from voters and produce a bigger Conservative majority in Parliament.

The House of Commons will vote later Wednesday on whether to support May’s call for a snap election.

Under British electoral law, May needs the backing of two-thirds of lawmakers. She will likely get it, since Labour has welcomed the early election.

If the election is approved Wednesday, Parliament will be dissolved on May 2, sparking almost six weeks of campaigning.

Unofficial electioneering kicked off in the weekly Prime Minister’s Questions session in the House of Commons, as May traded barbs with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Against a backdrop of raucous cheers and jeers, May called Corbyn “not fit to lead” and said his left-wing economic policies “would bankrupt this country.”

Corbyn said years of Conservative austerity had led to falling living standards and called May “a prime minister who can’t be trusted.”

May ruled out participating in televised debates with other leaders. TV debates don’t have a long history in British politics, but were a feature of the last two elections, in 2010 and 2015.

“We won’t be doing television debates,” May said, adding that politicians should spend election campaigns “out and about” meeting voters.

Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron said that broadcasters should hold debates anyway, with an empty chair in May’s place.

“The prime minister’s attempt to dodge scrutiny shows how she holds the public in contempt,” he said.


The first paragraph of this story has been corrected to show that the election is in June, not next month.

Raf Casert in Brussels contributed to this story.

Jill Lawless And Danica Kirka, The Associated Press

Just Posted

Video: Natalie Wilkie wins gold in Women’s 7.5km ski race as hometown cheers her on

Salmon Arm skier takes home her second medal of the PyeongChang Paralympics

Making new furry friends at the Meet the Breeds event in Salmon Arm

Centenoka Park Mall hosts Vernon & District Kennel Club’s showcase of well-trained pups

Salmon Arm community cheers on Natalie Wilkie as she wins first gold medal

Local skier tops the podium in 7.5km race at the PyeongChang Paralympics

Choose a brand for Salmon Arm

What do you think of three options offered to attract people to visit, live and invest in city.

Seniors prefer funeral to lifestyle planning

Survey finds 73% of seniors have a will, only 13% have long-term care plan

VIDEO: B.C. Mounties reunite veteran with lost military medals

RCMP say Zora Singh Tatla, who served in the army in India for 28 years, is the righful owner

Canucks snap scoreless streak but fall short in 5-3 loss to Sharks

Swiss forward Timo Meier nets two, including the game-winner, to lead San Jose

4 facts to ring in St. Patrick’s Day

What do you really know about the Irish celebration?

Experts urging caution as rabbits die by the hundreds in B.C. city

Province of B.C. confirms more positive tests for rabbit haemorrhagic disease

Federal government seeks public feedback on pedestrian safety

What safety measures do you think need to improved for pedestrians and cyclists?

Search continues for 10-year-old Montreal boy missing since Monday

Montreal police said they are exploring every possibility in search for Ariel Jeffrey Kouakou

Airline passenger-rights bill claws back protections for travellers: Advocate

Bill C-49 would double tarmac delays, scrap compensation for flights affected by mechanical failures

Canadian research vessel to explore 19th Century shipwrecks

Commissioned this week in Victoria, the RV David Thompson is Parks Canada’s newest vessel

UPDATED: ‘New wave’ of anti-pipeline protests return to Trans Mountain facility

About 100 demonstrators with Protect the Inlet marched to the Burnaby terminal Saturday

Most Read