LONDON – In a surprise move, British Prime Minister Theresa May has called an early election in a bid to silence her Brexit opponents in parliament and strengthen Britain’s bargaining position as it prepares to exit the European Union.
May’s demand for a mandate to secure the Brexit deal she desires saw the pound bounce following her announcement Tuesday morning. It traded against the dollar at $1.259, compared with $1.255 earlier in the day.
May’s move came just hours before the British Fashion Council chairman Caroline Rush and designer Ozwald Boateng planned to testify before a parliamentary committee, along with other members of the creative industries about Brexit.
They will appear later on Tuesday at Portcullis House, speaking to the Culture, Media and Sport Committee as part of its inquiry into the impact of Britain’s planned exit from the European Union on the creative industries, tourism and the digital single market.
May, who became prime minister last year after David Cameron stepped down following the Brexit referendum, had been adamant in her resolve not to call an early election. The next elections were due in 2020.
On Tuesday morning, however, May stood in front of the prime minister’s 10 Downing Street headquarters and told reporters she had made the decision “recently and reluctantly.”
May has been coming under increasing fire from opposition parties such as Labour, the Scottish National Party and the Liberal Democrats, which are fighting her views on Britain’s future role in the single market, the customs union and freedom of movement.
She believes Britain is better off out of the European Union altogether, while they are plumping for a “soft Brexit” that would involve the country remaining part of the single market and the customs union. British media outlets immediately dubbed the election, which is set for June 8, as a “second” Brexit referendum.
May, dressed in a dark pinstripe Daniel Blake dress, said her opponents “believe our resolve will weaken, and that they will force us to change course. They are wrong.”
She said that without early elections the “political game-playing will continue,” and the divisions in Westminster will cause further uncertainty as Britain prepares to enter into exit negotiations with its European partners.
“I am not prepared to let the Brexit opposition weaken the U.K.,” she said.
She threw down the gauntlet to the opposition parties, telling them “it’s your moment” to campaign for their own Brexit negotiation solutions, and said the point of the vote is to see Britain “through Brexit – and beyond.”
May said it was time for the people to decide what sort of Brexit they wanted. She slipped in some pre-campaign rallying, claiming that every vote for the Conservatives was “a vote for a stronger Britain.”
If members of parliament vote in favor – in a poll set for tomorrow – the June 8 election will be the second in two years. The June 8 election will take place the day before London Fashion Week Men’s, which runs from June 9 to 12, kicks off, ensuring that another round of men’s shows will be super-charged with political activity.
Last year, ahead of the Brexit referendum, which took place at the end of June, designers were out in force, urging voters to remain in the European Union as they took their runway bows.