Early elections: What's next

A poster above a newspaper stand advertises today's Evening Standard, with the front page story relating to British Prime Minister Theresa May's call for a snap general election on June 8, in central London on April 18, 2017.
A poster above a newspaper stand advertises today's Evening Standard, with the front page story relating to British Prime Minister Theresa May's call for a snap general election on June 8, in central London on April 18, 2017. PHOTO: AFP

British Prime Minister Theresa May yesterday called for an early election on June 8. Here's what happens next:

Q How will she call an election?

A The Fixed-term Parliaments Act, passed in 2011, sets a timetable for elections to take place every five years. A motion for a new vote ahead of schedule needs to be carried by two-thirds of the 650 seats in the House of Commons, including vacant seats. This means the government needs 434 votes to call the election.

Mrs May will introduce a motion to Parliament today. If it is passed, Parliament will come to an end on May 3, which is 25 working days before the date of the general election.

Mrs May's Conservatives hold 330 seats in the chamber, and the opposition Labour party, 229. Labour has said it will vote for the election, so the combined 559 votes would be enough to pass the motion if all lawmakers of both parties follow the party line.

Q Why did Mrs May change her mind?

A The decision by Prime Minister May to call a snap election is a U-turn, as she had previously said Britain needs stability rather than a new election. She implied yesterday that division in Westminster was undermining that stability.

Also, the British economy's relative strength now makes this a good time to have an election.

And a survey by pollster ICM yesterday gave the Conservatives an 18 percentage point lead over the main Labour opposition party.

Q What does it mean for Brexit?

A If Mrs May wins the June 8 election, her position would be strengthened at home and in negotiations with the other 27 members of the European Union.

With a large majority, she would be less beholden to extreme eurosceptics inside the Conservative Party. Winning a personal mandate would strengthen her position as prime minister. It also gives her more space domestically to negotiate Britain's exit, which under the current time- table will take place in March 2019. Had she waited until 2020 to hold an election, she would have faced voters just a year after leaving the EU.

By calling one in June, the next British election would not be due until 2022. That would allow Mrs May some political space to deal with any of the potentially negative effects of Brexit.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 19, 2017, with the headline 'Early elections: What's next'. Print Edition | Subscribe