But Mrs May, who has a fragile working majority of just 17 in the Commons, said she wanted "unity" at Westminster as talks on Brexit begin in earnest with the European Union.
Tuesday April 18, 2017
By Danny Boyle, Jack Maidment
Theresa May making her statement outside Number 10 Credit: PAUL GROVER for The Telegraph
Theresa May has called a snap general election for June 8, claiming that divisions at Westminster risked hampering the Brexit negotiations.
The Prime Minister will require the support of two-thirds of MPs to go to the country, with a vote scheduled in the Commons on Wednesday after the surprise announcement on Tuesday morning.
The move stunned Westminster, as Mrs May and Number 10 have repeatedly insisted she would not seek a general election before the scheduled 2020 poll.
Speaking outside Number 10, the Prime Minister said the Cabinet had agreed to call an early election. It later emerged that Mrs May had phoned the Queen yesterday to inform her of her intention.
The move takes place against the backdrop of the country's decision to leave the European Union in last year's referendum.
Justifying the decision, Mrs May said: "The country is coming together but Westminster is not."
She said the "division in Westminster will risk our ability to make a success of Brexit”.
Senior Tories had urged Mrs May to call an early election, taking advantage of the Conservatives' healthy opinion poll lead over Jeremy Corbyn's Labour.
Mrs May suggested she reached her decision over the Easter parliamentary recess - during which she went on a walking holiday in North Wales.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn welcomed Mrs May's calls for an early election saying it will "give the British people the chance to vote for a government that will put the interests of the majority first."
However, two of his MPs - Alan Johnson and Tom Blenkinsop - announced they will not stand for re-election, along with Conservative MP Simon Burns.