British lawmakers on Wednesday 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.
May stunned the country on Tuesday when she announced her plan for an early vote, despite having repeatedly said she would wait until the next election scheduled in 2020.
In fiery exchanges in the House of Commons on Wednesday, May said an early election would strengthen her hand against domestic critics seeking to “frustrate the process” of Brexit, which formally began last month.
“I will be asking the British people for a mandate to complete Brexit and to make a success of it,” the Conservative leader said, to cheers from her lawmakers sitting behind her.
Riding high in the opinion polls, May is seeking to increase her slim majority of 17 in the 650-seat Commons before the battles begin with the EU over Britain’s exit bill and future trade and immigration ties.
In a sign of the key campaign issues ahead, 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.
Corbyn accused the government of “broken promises” on health, education and the economy during its seven years in office.
May hit back that Labour offered only “bankruptcy and chaos”, but denied she was complacent, saying: “We will be out there fighting for every vote.”
British elections are fixed in law but can be changed with a two-thirds majority in the Commons — a threshold easily passed during Wednesday’s vote.
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 May — who took office after David Cameron resigned following the EU vote — seeking public backing for her plan to pull Britain out of Europe’s single market.