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MPs overwhelmingly support May’s call for snap election

MPs overwhelmingly support May’s call for snap election
Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May delivers a speech to Conservative Party members to launch their election campaign in Walmsley Parish Hall, Bolton. Photo: Reuters
Published: 3:00 PM, April 19, 2017
Updated: 7:14 AM, April 20, 2017

LONDON — British lawmakers last night overwhelmingly backed Prime Minister Theresa May’s call for a snap election, paving the way for a June vote she hopes will give her a “mandate to complete Brexit”.

The House of Commons voted by 522 to 13 to hold a general election on June 8 — plunging Britain back into political uncertainty just weeks before the start of negotiations on leaving the European Union. The result easily surpassed the two-thirds majority of the 650 lawmakers needed to trigger an early vote. 

In fiery exchanges before voting, Mrs May reiterated that the decision would strengthen her hand against domestic critics seeking to “frustrate the process” of leaving the EU, which formally began last month.

“I believe that at this moment of enormous national significance there should be unity here in Westminster, not division,” she said. “I will be asking the British people for a mandate to complete Brexit and to make a success of it.”

A day earlier, the prime minister stunned the country when she announced plans to call a snap election — despite having repeatedly said she would wait until the next vote in 2020.

She is seeking to increase her slim majority of 17 in Parliament before the battles begin with the EU over Britain’s exit Bill and future trade and 
immigration ties.

Mrs May insisted an early election would provide “certainty and stability” in the negotiations.

European Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas said yesterday that the “real political” negotiations of Brexit will start after the snap British election. 

In a sign of the key campaign issues ahead, Mrs May traded barbs in the Commons with opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, whose party is deeply divided and languishing up to 20 points behind the Conservatives.

Mr Corbyn accused the government of “broken promises” on health, education and the economy during its seven years in office. Mrs May hit back that Labour offered only “bankruptcy and chaos”.

All sides are now gearing up for the fourth major election in four years, after last June’s shock referendum vote for Brexit, the 2015 general election, and the 2014 Scottish independence vote. Brexit will dominate the campaign, with Mrs May — who took office after Mr David Cameron resigned following the Brexit vote — seeking public backing for her plan to pull Britain out of Europe’s single market.

Three weekend opinion polls put the Conservatives about 20 points ahead of Labour, and if translated into votes, this could give Mrs May an “election landslide” with a majority of more than 100.

Mrs May, Britain’s second female Prime Minister, also has strong popular support for her handling of the political earthquake unleashed by Brexit.

Meanwhile the Scottish National Party (SNP), which holds most of the seats in Scotland, is pushing its demands for a second referendum on independence in order to maintain close ties with the EU.

“Make no mistake, if the SNP wins this election in Scotland — and the Tories don’t — then Theresa May’s attempt to block our mandate to hold another referendum when the time is right, will crumble to dust,” said SNP leader and Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

The last parliamentary session will be held on May 2 before campaigning begins. AGENCIES