The European Parliament’s (EP) Brexit negotiator hailed British Prime Minister Theresa May’s surprising decision on Tuesday to call a snap general election, calling it an opportunity for British citizens to speak out on their views on relations with the European Union (EU).
“The UK election is an internal affair, but clearly Brexit will be the key element of it,” Guy Verhofstadt, the former prime minister of Belgium and the EP’s Brexit negotiator, wrote on his Facebook page.
“This means there will be an opportunity for UK citizens to express themselves on how they see the future relationship between their country and the EU,” he wrote, adding, “I will work with a new government for the best common future possible.”
Verhofstadt’s remarks came on the heels of May’s unexpected announcement of a snap general election on June 8.
May cited disharmony and divisions in the Houses of Parliament over Brexit as the reason for calling an election.
She spoke of opposition parties — particularly the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats — threatening to block the Brexit process.
May will go to the House of Commons on Wednesday to lay down the necessary legislation surrounding the calling of early general elections.
An election was not due until May 2020, and until Tuesday, May had insisted she would not call an early election. The move will require a vote with a two-thirds majority of Members of Parliament (MPs) supporting the measure.
Although among British people, May has a high rating as prime minister, she only has a small majority in the House of Commons.
Political observers say May wants to settle the question of Brexit once and for all by turning to the electorate. Her hope is that British voters will give her a much bigger mandate by increasing her majority in the House of Commons as she holds Brexit negotiations with the EU.
Even seasoned political commentators were taken by surprise at the announcement which came completely out of the blue.
The main opposition, Labour, is still in a state of civil war under its leader Jeremy Corbyn who remains estranged from many of his own MPs.
Corbyn and the leader of the minority Liberal Democrats, Tim Farron, both welcomed May’s decision to call a general election. Both said they would back the measure in the House of Commons on Tuesday.