Theresa May has just announced that an early election is to take place on the 8th June. On the steps of Downing Street she said:
"I have just chaired a meeting of the cabinet, where we agreed that the government should call a general election, to be held on 8 June.
"I want to explain the reasons for that decision, what will happen next and the choice facing the British people when you come to vote in this election.
"Last summer, after the country voted to leave the European Union, Britain needed certainty, stability and strong leadership, and since I became prime minister the government has delivered precisely that.
"Despite predictions of immediate financial and economic danger, since the referendum we have seen consumer confidence remain high, record numbers of jobs, and economic growth that has exceeded all expectations.
"We have also delivered on the mandate that we were handed by the referendum result. Britain is leaving the European Union and there can be no turning back.
"And as we look to the future, the government has the right plan for negotiating our new relationship with Europe.
"We want a deep and special partnership between a strong and successful European Union and a United Kingdom that is free to chart its own way in the world.
"That means we will regain control of our own money, our own laws and our own borders and we will be free to strike trade deals with old friends and new partners all around the world.
"This is the right approach, and it is in the national interest. But the other political parties oppose it.
"At this moment of enormous national significance there should be unity here in Westminster, but instead there is division.
"The country is coming together, but Westminster is not.
"In recent weeks Labour has threatened to vote against the final agreement we reach with the European Union. The Liberal Democrats have said they want to grind the business of government to a standstill.
"The Scottish National Party say they will vote against the legislation that formally repeals Britain's membership of the European Union. And unelected members of the House of Lords have vowed to fight us every step of the way.
"Our opponents believe because the government's majority is so small, that our resolve will weaken and that they can force us to change course.
"They are wrong.
"They underestimate our determination to get the job done and I am not prepared to let them endanger the security of millions of working people across the country.
"Because what they are doing jeopardises the work we must do to prepare for Brexit at home and it weakens the government's negotiating position in Europe.
"If we do not hold a general election now their political game-playing will continue, and the negotiations with the European Union will reach their most difficult stage in the run-up to the next scheduled election.
"Division in Westminster will risk our ability to make a success of Brexit and it will cause damaging uncertainty and instability to the country.
"So we need a general election and we need one now, because we have at this moment a one-off chance to get this done while the European Union agrees its negotiating position and before the detailed talks begin.
"I have only recently and reluctantly come to this conclusion. Since I became prime minister I have said that there should be no election until 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.
"And so tomorrow I will move a motion in the House of Commons calling for a general election to be held on 8 June. That motion, as set out by the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act, will require a two-thirds majority of the House of Commons.
"So I have a simple challenge to the opposition parties, you have criticised the government's vision for Brexit, you have challenged our objectives, you have threatened to block the legislation we put before Parliament.
"This is your moment to show you mean it, to show you are not opposing the government for the sake of it, to show that you do not treat politics as a game.
"Let us tomorrow vote for an election, let us put forward our plans for Brexit and our alternative programmes for government and then let the people decide.
"And the decision facing the country will be all about leadership. It will be a choice between strong and stable leadership in the national interest, with me as your prime minister, or weak and unstable coalition government, led by Jeremy Corbyn, propped up by the Liberal Democrats, who want to reopen the divisions of the referendum, and Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP.
"Every vote for the Conservatives will make it harder for opposition politicians who want to stop me from getting the job done.
"Every vote for the Conservatives will make me stronger when I negotiate for Britain with the prime ministers, presidents and chancellors of the European Union.
"Every vote for the Conservatives means we can stick to our plan for a stronger Britain and take the right long-term decisions for a more secure future.
"It was with reluctance that I decided the country needs this election, but it is with strong conviction that I say it is necessary to secure the strong and stable leadership the country needs to see us through Brexit and beyond.
"So, tomorrow, let the House of Commons vote for an election, let everybody put forward their proposals for Brexit and their programmes for government, and let us remove the risk of uncertainty and instability and continue to give the country the strong and stable leadership it demands."
Here's all the reaction to the prime minster's statement as it comes in:
I welcome the PM’s decision to give the British people the chance to vote for a government that will put the interests of the majority first pic.twitter.com/9P3X6A2Zpw— Jeremy Corbyn MP (@jeremycorbyn) April 18, 2017
Labour's Jeremy Corby said:
"I welcome the prime minister’s decision to give the British people the chance to vote for 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.
"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:
"This election is your chance to change the direction of our country. If you want to avoid a disastrous Hard Brexit.
"If you want to keep Britain in the Single Market. If you want a Britain that is open, tolerant and united, this is your chance.
"Only the Liberal Democrats can prevent a Conservative majority."
The Green party said they are ready for an early election with Caroline Lucas promising a 'bold, positive vision for a different kind of Britain' and co-leader Jonathan Bartley saying that the Green party would give people a 'real alternative to the politics of the past'.
Co-leader Caroline Lucas said:
"Britain is at a crossroads – and today’s announcement means that people are rightly given a say over the direction this country is going to take. Only the Green Party offers a bold, positive vision for a different kind of Britain. At this election we will stand for an economy that works for everyone, not just the privileged few; a Britain that’s open to the world and the protection of our precious environment. We will stand up to the politics of hatred and division that is scarring our communities and give people across the country a chance to vote for a better Britain."
Co-leader Jonathan Bartley said:
"Theresa May’s announcement today reveals a deep dishonesty at the heart of government. Despite numerous denials of a plan for an early General Election she has u-turned. The Green Party is ready for this seismic moment in our country’s future. We will be standing candidates in every corner of this country and giving people a real alternative to the politics of the past."
SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon said:
"This announcement is one of the most extraordinary u-turns in recent political history, and it shows that Theresa May is once again putting the interests of her party ahead of those of the country.
"She is clearly betting that the Tories can win a bigger majority in England given the utter disarray in the Labour Party.
"That makes it all the more important that Scotland is protected from a Tory Party which now sees the chance of grabbing control of government for many years to come and moving the UK further to the right – forcing through a hard Brexit and imposing deeper cuts in the process.
"That means that this will be – more than ever before – an election about standing up for Scotland, in the face of a right-wing, austerity obsessed Tory government with no mandate in Scotland but which now thinks it can do whatever it wants and get away with it.
"In terms of Scotland, this move is a huge political miscalculation by the prime minister.
"It will once again give people the opportunity to reject the Tories’ narrow, divisive agenda, as well as reinforcing the democratic mandate which already exists for giving the people of Scotland a choice on their future.
"The SNP will always put the people of Scotland first – and between now and June 8th we will work harder than ever to retain the trust of the people.
We welcome the General Election, but make no mistake - it is driven by Labour's obvious weakness, not the good of the country— Paul Nuttall (@paulnuttallukip) April 18, 2017
Ukip leader Paul Nuttall said:
"We welcome the opportunity to take Ukip's positive message to the country.
"However, we believe that the prime minister's decision to call this election is a cynical decision driven more by the weakness of Corbyn's Labour Party rather than the good of the country. There is also the prospect of a slew of Tory held by-elections caused by the seeming systematic breach of electoral law at the last election, predominantly in places where Ukip were pressing the Conservatives hard.
"We are in the midst of Brexit negotiations so this election will provide a perfect opportunity for the 52% to vote for Ukip the only party wholeheartedly committed to a clean quick and efficient Brexit."
SDLP Leader Colum Eastwood:
"It tells you all you need to know about Theresa May that she would call a snap Westminster election in the middle of intense efforts to restore power sharing government to Northern Ireland. From the beginning of her tenure as British Prime Minister she has shown very little but disinterest and disdain for this place.
"As Theresa May seeks a mandate for a hard Brexit from an English electorate, people here have an opportunity to unite behind parties which have defended their will and sought to protect our values.
"England may want to isolate itself from Europe and the world. But people in Northern Ireland and Scotland made a different choice. A choice that cannot be fulfilled through a hard Brexit. We now have an opportunity to strengthen the mandate of parties which campaigned against and consistently voted against Brexit at Westminster.
"I know people are suffering from electoral fatigue. But this is not a time to sit on the sidelines. This is a moment to unite to deliver a strong message to Theresa May and the Brexiteers. Our voice will be heard."
Make sure you are registered to vote. If you want to check, or to get a registration form contact any of your local DUP representatives.— DUP (@duponline) April 18, 2017
DUP leader Arlene Foster said:
"The prime minister's decision to go to Parliament to seek a general election on 8th June provides the people of Northern Ireland with the opportunity to vote for the Union.
"The Democratic Unionist Party has been a strong voice for Northern Ireland at Westminster and we have used the mandate given to us to ensure the interests of Northern Ireland are to the fore.
"The forthcoming election will be an opportunity for unionists to unite around a strong Democratic Unionist Party that will advocate for them in Parliament."