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Theresa May Calls Early Election in U.K., Seeking Stronger Mandate for ‘Brexit’

April 18, 2017 10:25 AM
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Theresa May Calls Early Election in U.K., Seeking Stronger Mandate for ‘Brexit’

LONDON — Prime Minister Theresa May stunned Britain on Tuesday by announcing that she would call an early election, placing a bet that voters would give her Conservative Party a strong mandate as her government negotiates the country’s withdrawal from the European Union.

“The country is coming together, but Westminster is not,” Mrs. May said in an unscheduled appearance outside the prime minister’s residence at 10 Downing Street, adding that she had “only recently and reluctantly come to this conclusion.”

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April 18, 2017 10:28 AM

But it also provides a new opportunity for Britain’s anti-Brexit voices to be heard, potentially reopening the bitter disagreements that polarized Britons over their nation’s future during the referendum campaign. Voters last June to leave the European Union.

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April 18, 2017 10:27 AM

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, that she has promised to deliver.

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April 18, 2017 10:27 AM

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 fractious far-right U.K. Independence Party, if anything, more a threat to Labour than to the Tories.

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April 18, 2017 10:26 AM

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.

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April 18, 2017 10:26 AM

Mrs. May’s proposal for a snap election on June 8 broke her oft-repeated vow not to call an early vote and was aimed at exploiting her popularity to gain more parliamentary seats. This would strengthen her political backing in the negotiations for Britain’s departure, known as Brexit.

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April 18, 2017 10:26 AM

“The country is coming together, but Westminster is not,” outside the prime minister’s residence at 10 Downing Street, adding that she had “only recently and reluctantly come to this conclusion.”