Kenny and May speak by phone after call for snap election on June 8th
Officials say British prime minister reiterated there would be no hard border with Republic
Taoiseach Enda Kenny and the British Prime Minister Theresa May spoke by telephone on Tuesday evening following the statement by Ms May earlier in day indicating her intention to seek an election on June 8th.
Irish Government officials said that the call lasted approximately 15 minutes and the two leaders reiterated their commitments regarding Brexit and Ireland.
They agreed that there should be no return to a hard border, that the Common Travel Area between Ireland and the UK should be maintained and they recognised the close trading links between the two “intertwined” economies — all familiar themes from their previous encounters.
Mr Kenny and Ms May also discussed Northern Ireland, when the Taoiseach told the Prime Ministers that “a return to direct rule should not be contemplated”, Government Buildings said.
Before parliament is dissolved at Westminster, the British Government will propose legislation to extend the deadline for the current talks at Stormont.
However, both Irish and British government sources acknowledged that the decision to go for a snap election suggested that the events in Northern Ireland were not carrying a great deal of weight with Downing Street.
June 8th election
Ms May said earlier Tuesday she had “reluctantly” taken the decision to seek a snap election after seeing other parties “playing games” with the process of preparing for Brexit negotiations.
Having repeatedly ruled out calling a snap election in the past, she said she changed her mind during a walking holiday in Snowdonia with husband Philip, and she told the Queen on Easter Monday before getting the full approval of Cabinet on Tuesday morning.
Speaking to ITV News, Ms May said: “Before Easter, I spent a few days walking in Wales with my husband, thought about this long and hard and came to the decision that to provide that stability and certainty for the future, this was the way to do it — to have an election.
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“I trust the British people. The British people gave the Government a job to do in terms of coming out of the European Union and I’m going to be asking the British people to put their trust in me in ensuring we deliver a success of that.”
Sterling rose against the dollar after Ms May made the surprise announcement outside her Downing Street office.
Jeremy Corbyn welcomes decision
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn welcomed Ms May’s decision, saying his party would offer an “effective alternative” to the Tories.
Mr Corbyn said the surprise decision to call an election almost three years earlier than the next scheduled ballot, would give the people the chance to vote for a government that would put the “majority first”.
The Labour leader indicated that his MPs would support Ms May’s demand for an early election, which will require the backing of two-thirds of all MPs.
He said: “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.”
Future direction of Scotland
An early general election will help determine the future direction of Scotland, first minister Nicola Sturgeon said on Tuesday, as she seized on Ms May’s announcement to build her case for a second independence referendum.
“This election will be very much an election about what kind of country we want Scotland to be, and who determines the future direction of Scotland,” Ms Sturgeon told broadcasters.
Scotland voted in 2014 to stay part of the United Kingdom, but Ms Sturgeon’s party wants a new referendum within the next two years, arguing that the UK’s vote to leave the European Union changes circumstances fundamentally.
Ms May has resisted these calls, saying that now was not the time for a new Scottish independence referendum. Ms Sturgeon said that another vote on Scottish independence should be held when the time was right for Scotland, and it was not for Ms May’s Conservative government to determine Scotland’s future.
European Council president Donald Tusk said he had a “good” telephone conversation with Ms May. Mr Tusk, will chair a summit of the other 27 EU leaders on April 29th to agree the bloc’s negotiating position on Britain’s plan to leave the EU in 2019.
The prime minister had repeatedly denied that she would call an election before the next scheduled poll in 2020. Ms May’s Conservatives, who were split on the issue of European Union membership ahead of last year’s referendum, are currently far ahead of Labour, the main opposition party, according to opinion polls.
Members of parliament have reacted on social media to the news. Andy Burnham, the Labour MP for Leigh who ran for leadership of the Labour Party in 2015, accused Ms May and the Conservatives of putting the party’s interests “before the national interest”.
Douglas Carswell, who defected as a Conservative MP to Ukip in 2014 before quitting Ukip in March, said: “If you voted Ukip in 2015, it’s job done”.
Deputy leader of the Scottish National Party Angus Robertson, said: “Whatever happened to ‘now is not the time’? UK General Election: 8th June. Straight choice in Scotland between the SNP and Tories. #VoteSNP”.
- Additional reporting PA