(CNN) -- British Prime Minister Theresa May has stunned the UK political world by announcing she is to seek an early general election, seeking a stronger mandate in talks over leaving the European Union.
In an unexpected statement at Downing Street, May said she was starting the process of calling a vote on June 8, less than halfway through the government's five-year term.
May, who commands only a slim majority in the House of Commons, said that a new mandate would strengthen her hand in negotiations in Brexit talks.
A general election would end the attempts of opposition parties and members of the House of Lords to thwart her Brexit plans. "If we do not hold a general election now, their political game playing will continue," she said.
"There should be unity here in Westminster, but instead there is division. The country is coming together, but Westminster is not," she added.
She called on voters to throw their support behind her Conservative Party, adding that "every vote for the Conservatives will make me stronger" in Brexit talks.
Under legislation introduced by her predecessor, David Cameron, an early election needs the support of two-thirds of MPs in parliament's lower House of Commons. May said she would place a motion before Parliament on Wednesday.
May is expected to win an increased majority in Parliament. Opinion polls show the opposition Labour Party, led by Jeremy Corbyn, at record low levels
May came to power last July in the wake of the British vote to leave the EU, which led to Cameron's resignation. She has repeatedly said that the decision cannot be reversed, and has pursued a hard line on those who have argued for a phased withdrawal or a loose, continued association with the EU.