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

Local and international artists paint murals across Victoria

Sixteen murals are spread out across downtown Victoria as part of the ‘concrete canvas’ project

Federal government announces over $115 million to Royal Canadian Navy

Defence Minister Harjit S. Sajjan was at CFB Esquimalt to announce missile system upgrades

Crash snarles traffic on Highway 17

Traffic southbound is seriously delayed and northbound down to one lane on… Continue reading

Victoria Police arrest man in relation to indecent act at Beacon Hill Park

The man is known to police, and is facing three charges

Oak Bay brothers scoop 10 kg of poop from park paths in 30 mins

Family picks up dog poo to give back, inspire others to be more responsible

PHOTOS: B.C. city wakes up to darkness under wildfire smoke

The rest of the province also dealing with thick haze as smoky skies continue

Five things to do in Greater Victoria this weekend

Puppy yoga, horses, cars, water guns and more make up this weekend’s list of events to see

Authorities mull evacuation order for Zeballos

Smoke billowed from the steep hillsides of Zeballos on Friday evening, as… Continue reading

Safeway union urges prejection of mediator recommendations

Says mediator asks for too many concessions

Fire chases B.C. crews out of their own camp

Crews in Burns Lake had to leave after a wildfire reportedly overtook their sleeping quarters

To address peacock problem, B.C. city moves ahead on trapping plan

Surrey’s new bylaw focuses on ensuring people no longer feed the birds, ahead of relocation

Hospitals to see ‘delays’ in care after losing Saudi students, health group says

About 1,000 Saudi residents called back to kingdom after suspending diplomatic relations with Canada

Bernier diatribe against ‘extreme multiculturalism’ boosts Liberal coffers

Party spokesperson Braeden Caley says online donations doubled, social media engagement quadrupled

‘Disjointed’ system hinders British Columbia First Nations in wildfire fight

More than 550 wildfires were burning in B.C. and crews were bracing for wind and dry lightning

Most Read