Theresa May seeks early election in U.K.

British Prime Minister Theresa May says she will seek an early election, for June 8, looking to bolster her Conservative Party's position as the country heads into talks to leave the European Union.

Division in parliament "will risk our ability to make a success of Brexit," May told reporters Tuesday outside her official residence, 10 Downing Street, in London.

May is pursuing a "hard" exit from the EU — leaving its political union along with its common market and customs union — rather than one of several softer options that would maintain certain ties. 

MPs will be asked to vote for the election on Wednesday, she said.

The proposed vote must win the support of two-thirds of Parliament to proceed. The next general election was not scheduled to take place until 2020. The last one was held just two years ago.

The leaders of the opposition parties — including Labour, the Liberal Democrats, the Greens and the U.K. Independence Party — said they are ready to go to the polls. 

"Labour will be offering the country an effective alternative to a government that has failed to rebuild the economy, delivered failing living standards and damaging cuts to our schools and [National Health Service,]" Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn said in a statement.  

May, who became prime minister after David Cameron resigned in the wake of the Brexit referendum last June, had earlier ruled out an early election. 

She said Tuesday the about-face was "necessary to secure the strong and stable leadership" amid "political game playing" by opposition parties including Labour and the Scottish National Party.

The SNP-led Scottish Parliament recently voted to hold a second referendum on independence from the U.K. Scots rejected the idea in 2014, but also voted to remain with the EU. The independence movement has seized the latter as justification for another referendum. 

"This move is a huge political miscalculation by the prime minister," Nicola Sturgeon, SNP leader and Scotland's first minister, said in a statement.

"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," she said.

May's Conservatives have 330 seats in the 650-seat House of Commons and are polling well ahead of Labour, the main Opposition party. 

The prime minister's own personal ratings also dwarf those of Corbyn, with 50 per cent of those asked saying she would make the best prime minister. Corbyn wins only 14 per cent, according to pollster YouGov.

The British pound strengthened by almost half a cent against the U.S. dollar as she spoke, reflecting investor relief that earlier rumours of a shock resignation did not transpire.