The Conservative leader said the vote would give “certainty and stability” to the country for the Brexit process.
“At this moment of enormous national significance, there should be unity here in Westminster but instead there is division. The country is coming together but Westminster is not...
“If we do not hold a general election now their [other parties’] political gameplaying will continue and the negotiations with the EU will reach their most difficult stage in the run-up to the next scheduled election...
“We have at this moment a one-off chance to get this done while the EU agrees its negotiating position and before the detailed talks begin.”
IfG warns Theresa May has “small window” to start new policy initiatives
How Whitehall can help make Theresa May's policy priorities stick
IfG questions Theresa May’s ability to deliver conference pledges
The prime minister made the announcement in a statement outside No 10 this morning after a Cabinet meeting.
The government will move a motion in the Commons tomorrow for the early election to go ahead. The consent of two-thirds of MPs is required under the terms of the Fixed-Term Parliament Act.
Jeremy Corbyn has previously said Labour MPs would not stand in the way of an early general election.
It marks a sharp change in attitude after No 10 repeatedly ruled out calling an early vote.
Last month, the prime minister’s spokesman said explicitly: “There is no change in our position on an early general election. There is not going to be a general election.”
In her statement May said she had only reached the decision “recently and reluctantly”.
All recent polls give the Conservatives a sizeable lead over the Labour party.
Of three polls published over the Bank Holiday weekend, two gave a 21-point lead to the Tories, and one a nine-point advantage.