British Prime Minister Theresa May called for an early election on 8 June, saying it was the only way to guarantee political stability for years ahead as Britain negotiates its way out of the European Union.
The pound strengthened by almost half a cent against the dollar as May spoke, reflecting investor relief that earlier rumours of a shock resignation did not transpire. Ten-year British government bond yields rose slightly.
"I have just chaired a meeting of the cabinet where we agreed that the government should call a general election to be held on the 8th of June," Mrs May said in a surprise statement outside her Downing Street office.
"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."
She said she would introduce legislation on Wednesday to pave the way for the early election. Under current legislation, the next election was not scheduled to take place until 2020.
Mrs 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.
Mrs May, who was appointed prime minister after the country voted in favour of Brexit in June last year, enjoys a large lead in the opinion polls, with 50 percent saying she would be the best prime minister. The leader of the main opposition Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, won 14 percent, pollster YouGov said.
But she must first win the support of two-thirds of the parliament for her call for an early election. The main opposition Labour Party has said it is ready for a new election.
Mrs May said this was a one-off chance to get an election done while the EU was agreeing on its negotiating position.
She said the government had the right plan to negotiate Brexit, and there would be no change of course.