Prime Minister Theresa May got the overwhelming support of British lawmakers on Wednesday when they voted by a resounding 522 to 13 to back her call for a snap general election on June 8.
The result in Westminster easily surpasses the two-thirds majority of the 650 lawmakers needed to trigger an early vote. Parliament will be dissolved on May 2, sparking almost six weeks of campaigning.
Earlier Wednesday, May defended her decision to call an early election – two years after the most recent and three years before the next on scheduled in 2020. She said the snap election would strengthen the government’s hand in negotiations to leave the European Union.
She said that “Brexit isn’t just about the letter that says we want to leave. It’s about … getting the right deal from Europe.”
The June election would be the third time in two years voters are sent to polling booths, after a May 2015 national election and a June 2016 referendum on EU membership.
May is hoping to gain a bigger majority in Parliament for her Conservatives.
The opposition Labour Party and Liberal Democrats welcomed the chance to put their policies to voters, though the Scottish National Party said the election call is a cynical ploy.
Britain’s next national election is currently scheduled for 2020, a year after the scheduled completion of two years of EU exit talks.
May told The Sun newspaper that if Britain were still negotiating with the bloc in the run-up to a national election, "the Europeans might have seen that as a time of weakness when they could push us."
May also told the BBC that her political opponents were intent on "frustrating the Brexit process" — even after Parliament authorized divorce talks with the EU.
EU officials say Britain’s surprise election will not interrupt the bloc’s preparations for Brexit talks — though they will slightly delay the start of negotiations. Leaders of EU states are due to adopt negotiating guidelines at an April 29 summit, and the bloc will prepare detailed plans for the talks with Britain by late May.
It had been hoped talks could start by the end of that month, but EU Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas said Wednesday that "the real political negotiations" with Britain would not start till after the June 8 election.
May’s Conservatives currently hold 330 of the 650 seats in the House of Commons. Opinion polls give them a big lead over the Labour opposition, and May is gambling that an election will deliver her a personal mandate from voters and produce a bigger Conservative majority in Parliament.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.