Yesterday I announced my decision to hold a UK General Election on Thursday 8th June. This is not a decision I have taken lightly, but after deep thought and reflection and in the strong belief that Britain needs an election now to secure the strong and stable leadership that is required to see our country through Brexit and beyond.
I welcome the fact that the other parties have indicated they will support that decision in the House of Commons today. It is the right decision for Britain.
My priority on first entering Downing Street was to provide the United Kingdom with strong leadership and economic stability after the EU referendum campaign, and to deliver on the mandate of the British people by beginning the process of leaving the European Union. I have delivered on those objectives.
And I have also been very clear about my priorities for the negotiations ahead, including my determination to ensure that we strengthen our United Kingdom and deliver a deal that works for all parts of the UK, and the UK as a whole.
We must ensure that our country has the strong leadership we need to negotiate a deal that delivers on that ambition. That is crucial, because leaving the European Union provides us with a unique opportunity to shape a brighter future for Britain. We can only seize that opportunity with strong and stable leadership that is able to take the right decisions for Britain in the long-term. That is what I am determined to provide.
But while the British people are increasingly united, Westminster remains divided. In the weeks since the UK Government triggered Article 50, the Labour Party has threatened to vote against the final agreement. The Liberal Democrats have said they want to ‘grind’ the business of government ‘to a standstill’. The SNP say they will threaten to vote against the legislation that formally repeals Britain’s membership of the EU. And the House of Lords have vowed to fight the Government every step of the way.
It is profoundly in the interests of every part of our United Kingdom that we should get the right deal for Britain in the coming negotiations. Even our opponents accept that basic fact. That is why the SNP’s demand that there should be a lengthy second independence campaign held concurrently with the UK Government’s negotiations with the EU is so misguided. As well as presenting an unfair choice to Scottish voters between two unclear outcomes, it would create uncertainty and division in our country at a time when we need to maximise certainty and unity to get the best deal for the whole UK.
For those same reasons, a UK general election now is firmly in our national interest. The alternative – to wait until 2020 for the next election – would cause uncertainty and instability just as the negotiations reached their most difficult and sensitive stage.
The inevitable political divisions this would cause in Westminster and elsewhere would risk our ability to make a success of Brexit. An election now will provide the UK with five years of strong and stable leadership to see us through the negotiations and the period thereafter.
This will be a United Kingdom General Election to elect representatives to our UK Parliament in Westminster. That institution is of huge importance to every part of our Union. Unique in containing representatives of every community in each of the four nations of our kingdom, it is the democratic embodiment of our Union of nations and people.
Those of us who believe in our United Kingdom, and in the benefits of sharing together the risks and rewards of national life as one people, must speak up for it. In response to the narrow, tunnel-vision politics of the nationalists, who see every issue through the distorting prism of grievance, we who believe in unity and solidarity across our country must work to offer a positive and compelling alternative.
This general election presents us with an opportunity to make afresh the positive and compelling case for common British endeavour and collective British achievement within a United Kingdom.
A vote for the Scottish Conservatives in June will do two things. It will send a clear message of opposition to the SNP’s divisive plans for a second independence referendum, and it will strengthen my hand as I negotiate on behalf of the whole United Kingdom with the EU.
In Scotland, only Ruth Davidson and her Scottish Conservative colleagues are able to stand up for our United Kingdom and provide a strong voice against the SNP. And only a strong Conservative Government at Westminster can deliver a Brexit that works for the whole UK.
Because we are determined not just to get the right deal for Britain with Europe, but to make the most of the opportunities ahead by shaping a stronger, fairer country in which we reward people who work hard, create secure and well-paid jobs, and make sure there is growth and prosperity around the whole country. That is why, for example, we have already launched a new modern industrial strategy to benefit all corners of the United Kingdom, to help create the high-skilled, high-paid jobs of the future, and to help Britain seize a new global role as one of the strongest countries in Europe in terms of economic growth. It is a central part of our Plan for a Stronger Britain, but it requires strong and stable leadership to deliver it.
At this crucial time for our Union, a general election is necessary to secure that strong and stable leadership to see us through Brexit and beyond. It is necessary to strengthen Britain’s hand in the negotiations to come. It is necessary to unite the country so that we may all move forward together.
It is the right decision for Britain.