United Kingdom prime minister defends decision to seek snap election

Prime Minister Theresa May said on Wednesday an early election would strengthen her at the "most crucial point" in Britain's divorce talks with the European Union, as she prepared to ask parliament to approve a vote in just seven weeks' time.

She said that "Brexit isn't just about the letter that says we want to leave".

Parliament will still sit for another fortnight, but party leaders wasted no time in hitting the campaign trail on Wednesday evening.

Mrs May told the chamber that she had changed her mind on the election issue because it would help in the coming Brexit talks.

An earlier election can take place if: a motion for an early general election is agreed either by at least two thirds of the whole House of Commons or without division; or, if a motion of no confidence is passed and no alternative government is confirmed by the House within 14 days.

She said that waiting until 2020 would mean the "most sensitive" part of the two-year Brexit negotiations would come during the run-up to an election.

"That would be in nobody's interest", May said.

The opposition Labour Party and Liberal Democrats welcomed the chance to put their policies to voters, though the Scottish National Party said the election call is a cynical ploy. Its lawmakers abstained during Wednesday's vote.

"Labour is the party that will put the interests of the majority first...."

Despite Corbyn's bravado, his party is demoralized and divided under his left-wing leadership and is expected to fare badly. Polls give the Conservatives a double-digit lead over Labour, and May is gambling that an election will deliver her a personal mandate from voters and produce a bigger Conservative majority.

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The Conservatives are set to gain 40 seats in June's snap general election to secure a majority of 90, according to betting market data.

Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron said that, for May, calling the election is "the political equivalent of taking candy from a baby".

Jeremy Corbyn accused the Conservatives of presiding over falling incomes, a struggling health service, cuts to school funding and rising child poverty, and asked: "If the Prime Minister is so proud of her record, why will she not debate it?" The Lib Dems now have just nine seats in Parliament.

Britain's next national election had not been due until for 2020, a year after the scheduled completion of two years of European Union exit talks.

"A general election is the best way to strengthen Britain's hand in the negotiations ahead", May told lawmakers at the outset of a 90-minute debate. We can't win, they say, because we don't play their game.

European Union 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.

Juncker's spokesman said the election would not delay the start of negotiations, which the Commission's chief negotiator Michel Barnier has previously said would start in early June.

In a repeat of an election tactic successfully wielded against Ed Miliband in 2015, Theresa May has sought to cast the upcoming election as a choice between "strong leadership" from the Conservatives or a "coalition of chaos" with Labour propped up by the SNP and other smaller parties.

An official statement from the broadcaster said: "ITV will hold a leaders' debate as we did in 2010 and 2015".

"We won't be doing television debates", she said on Wednesday.

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