British PM announces early election to strengthen hand ahead of Brexit

British Prime Minister Theresa May has announced she wants to hold an early election on June 8.

It's an incredible U-turn - during her leadership bid, Ms May ruled out an early election, pledging there wouldn't be a general election before 2020.

"But now I have concluded that the only way to guarantee certainty and stability for the years ahead is to hold this election and seek your support for the decisions I must take," she said outside 10 Downing Street on Tuesday.

Ms May has said she does not want to be distracted by campaigning, and Conservative Party sources say she has ruled out taking part in any televised debates, The Independent reports. 

Critics are likely to claim the Conservatives are avoiding the risk of a debate as they sail 20 points ahead of Labour in the polls.

Ms May's favourability ratings also tower over Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn's. Fifty percent of those polled by YouGov favoured Ms May as prime minister, with just 14 percent backing Mr Corbyn.

The nation and parliament were left divided by the Brexit result and unity was key for the future, Ms May told the press.

"The country is coming together, but Westminster is not," she said, adding the "division in Westminster will risk our ability to make a success of Brexit."

"Our opponents believe that because the Government's majority is so small, our resolve will weaken and that they can force us to change course. They are wrong."

European Union officials have given up on hopes of Britian staying in the EU, instead repeating the vote will strengthen Ms May's hand in managing exit negotiations.

Ms May took office last July after David Cameron, her predecessor, resigned amidst the Brexit referendum result.

Mr Cameron said she made a "brave - and right - decision", wishing the Conservative candidates the best via Twitter.

Despite Ms May's significant lead over the Labour Party, the opposition support the move.

Mr Corbyn says it will give the British people "the chance to vote a government that will put the interests of the majority first".

"Labour will be offering the country an effective alternative to a government that has failed to rebuild the economy, delivered falling living standards and damaging cuts to our schools and NHS," he said in a statement issued shortly after the announcement.

"In the last couple of weeks, Labour has set out policies that offer a clear and credible choice for the country. We look forward to showing how Labour will stand up for the people of Britain."

Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron said it was a "chance to change the direction of our country".

"If you want to avoid a disastrous Hard Brexit... If you want a Britain that is open, tolerant and united, this is your chance," he said.

Ms May needs the support of two-thirds of the MPs in the Commons in order to call the early election. She has unianimous support from her own party and support from the opposition.