UK election

British prime minister Theresa May calls for an early election on June 8th

Hugh Linehan Tue, Apr 18
LIVE: UK election

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  • This event has now ended
  • 11:07
    Welcome to our coverage of today’s shock announcement by Theresa May that a general election will be held in the UK. I’m Hugh Linehan and I’ll be covering the fallout and reaction over the next few hours.
  • 11:08
    "This is the right approach, and it is in the national interest," May said in her statement.
  • 11:09
    The election will be held on June 8th.
  • 11:11
    "I have only recently and reluctantly come to this conclusion," may says. "So tomorrow I will move a motion in the House of Commons." She points out the motion will require a two-thirds majority in the Commons, and therefore will need to be supported by Labour.
  • 11:12
    "Tomorrow let everybody put forward their plans for Brexit."
  • 11:13
    May has concluded her statement. Less than a month ago her spokesperson said there would be no election. Now she has entirely reversed that.
  • 11:20
    Main points so far:

    Theresa May says she is calling an election because other parties are opposed to her government’s Brexit plans
    Her government has a plan for Brexit that will allow the UK to regain control of its laws and borders. But the other parties oppose it, she says.
    There is no unity in Westminster, she says. Labour has threatened to vote against the final deal, and the Lib Dems and SNP opposes what the government is doing. The House of Lords have said they will oppose the government all the way.
    She says she is not prepared to allow her opponents to jeopardise the Brexit And she says the Brexit talks will conclude as election speculation is intensifying.
    May says she has only recently come to this conclusion.
    May says she will move a motion in the Commons tomorrow proposing an election on 8 June.
    She challenges the opposition parties to accept an early election and let the people decide.
  • 11:23

  • 11:26

  • 11:29

    Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron has given his first response to May's announcement:


    This election is your chance to change the direction of our country.

    'If you want to avoid a disastrous hard Brexit. If you want to keep Britain in the single market. If you want a Britain that is open, tolerant and united, this is your chance.

    Only the Liberal Democrats can prevent a Conservative majority.'

  • 11:29

  • 11:36

    Here is May's full statement:

  • 11:40
    It's confirmed. Labour officially says it will support the motion for an election on June 8th.
  • 11:44

    Here's Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn's statement:


    I welcome the Prime Minister’s decision to give the British people the chance to vote for a government that will put the interests of the majority first.
    Labour will be offering the country an effective alternative to a government that has failed to rebuild the economy, delivered falling living standards and damaging cuts to our schools and NHS.
    In the last couple of weeks, Labour has set out policies that offer a clear and credible choice for the country. We look forward to showing how Labour will stand up for the people of Britain.

  • 11:45

    The Green Party's Caroline Lucas:

    Britain is at a crossroads – and today’s announcement means that people are rightly given a say over the direction this country is going to take. Only the Green party offers a bold, positive vision for a different kind of Britain. At this election we will stand for an economy that works for everyone, not just the privileged few; a Britain that’s open to the world and the protection of our precious environment. We will stand up to the politics of hatred and division that is scarring our communities and give people across the country a chance to vote for a better Britain.

  • 11:48
    Just to clarify the mathematics in the House of Commons:  

    To over-ride the Fixed-term Parliaments Act Theresa May needs a two-thirds majority. That would be 434 MPs.

    May has the numbers required with the Conservatives (330 MPs) and Labour (229 MPs) voting in favour.

  • 11:53

  • 12:01

    SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon's response:

  • 12:04

    Our London Editor Denis Staunton's analysis:


    The prime minister used her announcement in Downing Street to frame the election as a vote of confidence in her management of Brexit and an attempt to strengthen her hand in the negotiations. But a bigger majority could also offer her greater room for manoeuvre in those talks, particularly over sensitive issues such as the nature and duration of any transitional arrangements after Britain leaves the EU.
    In recent weeks, May has signalled a shift in emphasis, making clear that she expects free movement of people, budget payments to the EU and the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice to continue beyond March 2019. Until now, hardline Brexiteers on her backbenches have been supportive of her approach but that support is likely to crumble once hard compromises become necessary.

    Read the full article here.

  • 12:24

    All the polls point to the Conservatives winning a landslide victory on June 8th. A poll of polls conducted in March by Electoral Calculus gave the Tories a 112 seat majority in Commons.
    A round of even better polls at the weekend polls may have been what convinced May to go for an election
    A ComRes poll for the Sunday Mirror and Independent on Sunday gave the Tories a 21 per centlead over Labour., and a YouGov poll for the Times put the lead at 17 per cent.
    An Opinium poll for the Observer gave the Tories an 11 per cent lead.

  • 12:27
    Sterling wobbled and UK and Irish stock benchmarks fell on Monday morning after   May's announcement. Read Joe Brennan's report here.
  • 12:31

    A cinematic reference from the preseident of the European Council.

  • 12:33

    From Ukip leader Paul Nuttall:

    We welcome the opportunity to take Ukip’s positive message to the country.

    However, we believe that the prime minister’s decision to call this election is a cynical decision driven more by the weakness of Corbyn’s Labour party rather than the good of the country. There is also the prospect of a slew of Tory held by-elections caused by the seeming systematic breach of electoral law at the last election, predominantly in places where UKIP were pressing the Conservatives hard.

    We are in the midst of Brexit negotiations so this election will provide a perfect opportunity for the 52% to vote for UKIP the only party wholeheartedly committed to a clean quick and efficient Brexit.

  • 12:46
    The Guardian reportsTheresa May’s spokesman told journalists at the Number 10 lobby briefing that the prime minister talked to the Queen by phone on Monday before she made the announcement.

    If the vote is passed to call the election by the necessary two-thirds majority in the Commons – this would need 434 votes – then parliament would be dissolved later, 25 working days before the general election. That means dissolution on 3 May.

    The spokesman said Brexit negotiations would carry on even amid the election.

    “Everything continues as at present,” he said.

    Asked why May had changed her mind over the idea of an early election, her spokesman said he could add nothing more to the prime minister’s statement in Downing Street, where she said she had “recently and reluctantly” decided that an election was the only way to guarantee stability.

  • 12:55
    Reuters reports that European Council President Donald Tusk (he of the Hitchcockian tweet below) said he had a "good" telephone conversation with Theresa May on Tuesday after the British prime minister called for a snap general election.

    Tusk, who will chair a summit of the other 27 EU leaders on April 29 to agree the bloc's negotiating position on Britain's plan to leave the EU in 2019, made the comment on his preferred medium of Twitter.

  • 13:10
    PA reports that preparation for Brexit negotiations will continue “exactly as it is” despite Theresa May calling a snap general election on June 8, Downing Street has said. The prime minister said there is now a “one-off chance” to hold a vote as the European Union agrees its negotiating position, and stressed the need for “unity” in Westminster before exit talks begin in earnest. Her official spokesman said the Government’s work in advance of the negotiations will continue as officials, secretaries of state and ministers will remain in place in the run-up to the election. The two-year exit timetable set out under Article 50 of the EU treaties and the schedule for talks will be “exactly the same”, he added.  


  • 13:20

    Some confusion around whether there might be fresh elections to the Northern Ireland Assembly on June 8th in addition to the genereal election. RTE's Tommy Gorman suggesting right now that the unionist/nationalist ratio in the latter could slip from 11/7 to 9/9, and that all this could ratchet pressure up further for a border poll.


  • 13:26

    DUP leader Arlene Foster has said the election would provide the people of Northern Ireland with the opportunity to "vote for the union".
    Mrs Foster called on her voters to "unite around a strong Democratic Unionist Party that will advocate for them in Parliament".
    Sinn Féin welcomed news of the Westminster poll, with leader Gerry Adams tweeting: "So Ms May has called a British General Election. Sinn Féin is up 4 that! Another chance 2 vote against Brexit & 4 progress."
    However, SDLP leader Colum Eastwood tweeted this:


  • 13:31
    Leo Varadkar tells RTE radio he doesn't think the UK election would have an impact on Enda Kenny's timing of his departure from the leadership of Fine Gael and as Taoiseach. He said it was absolutely a decision for Mr Kenny, but suggested a resignation by the summer might be good timing in light of other events.
  • 13:35

  • 13:45

  • 13:49

    Grim reading for Labour.

  • 13:56

    Cliff Taylor on the forthcoming campaign:

    'What will now be of keen interest to economic policymakers and businesses here will be the signals sent out during the campaign. What are the details of the Brexit strategy which the Conservatives will outline?'

    Read the full article here.

  • 14:04

  • 14:19

    Spare a thought for the candidates, polling oficers and voters of the constituency of Gorton in Manchester, where a byelection, caused by the death of the longstanding Labour MP Gerald Kaufman, is  due to take place on May 4th.

    If it goes ahead, as a government spokesman has indicated, the new MP will win their seat the day after parliament is dissolved, and immediately be plunged back into another election campaign.  The Electoral Commission say they understand the byelection can still happen if the parties wish it - but why on earth would they?

  • 14:51

    The general election was an opportunity for the British people to shape any future withdrawal deal, according to  Guy Verhofstadt, the European parliament’s Brexit co-ordinator.

    "The UK election is an internal affair but clearly Brexit will be the key element of it," he said. "This means there will be an opportunity for the UK citizens to express themselves on how they see the future relationship between their country and the EU.

    "As the EP Brexit negotiator, I will work with the new government for the best common future possible."

  • 14:57

    Speaking after a phone call with  Secretary of State for Northern Ireland James Brokenshire,  Minister for Foreign Affairs aCharlie Flanagan said the election announcement "does not change the Government’s commitment to ensuring the best possible outcome for Ireland in the upcoming Brexit negotiations where we will negotiate from a position of strength as one of the EU 27. I am of course concerned about the impact of a UK General Election on the ongoing talks’ process in Northern Ireland and I conveyed these when I spoke with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland earlier today. The Secretary of State told me that his intention, announced last week, remains unchanged – namely, to bring forward legislation at Westminster in the coming days which will include a provision to allow a Northern Ireland Executive to be formed in early May. While this will legislatively facilitate the formation of an Executive, I am conscious of the political reality that all of the parties involved in the talks will now be competing in a General Election and mind-sets will inevitably shift to campaign mode. Nevertheless, it is the firm hope of the Irish Government that the talks’ process can continue and conclude successfully in the coming days. The interests of the people of Northern Ireland are best served by having a devolved Executive and Assembly. This is the case regardless of the electoral cycle at Westminster. That will be my message in my contacts with the party leaders in Northern Ireland in the coming days and when I travel to Belfast for further discussions on Thursday.”

  • 15:12

    What does the election mean for Northern Ireland? Gerry Moriarty's take:


    Northern Ireland politicians had enough to contend with trying to get Stormont back up and running. Now after the snap election of early March they are facing into another snap election in early June.
    It’s a contest the North could have done without but it seems that Brexit, together with the current weakness of the British Labour party, prompted British prime minister Theresa May to take her chance and seek a strong majority for the coming challenges.
    It doesn’t seem a destabilised Northern political system played much part in her decision.
    May’s move certainly will concentrate the minds of the parties who are due back at Stormont on Wednesday seeking a means to reinstate the Northern Executive and Assembly. But it may concentrate them in such a fashion that they give up on the talks until the election is out of the way. The British and Irish governments may try to compel them to get a deal done now, but then again what party makes compromises in the teeth of an election?

    Full article here.

  • 15:22

    In our World View podcast, London Editor Denis Staunton talks to Patrick Smyth about Theresa May's election gambit.

  • 15:36

    "There's too much politics going on at the moment."

  • 15:40

  • 15:52
    David Lidington, the leader of the Commons, has stated that parliament will be dissolved just after midnight on May 3rd.  
  • 16:06

    There will be no leaders’ TV debates during the campaign, according to Theresa May’s office. Nor will there many press conferences  or extended interviews.
    According to a report by Channel 4’s Gary Gibbon, “Theresa May is not a huge fan of these sorts of encounters and her team think they open up risks that don’t need to be taken. So the 2017 general election will make the 2015 one look like ‘access all areas’ as far as the Tories are concerned.”