British PM May calls for early election on June 8

LONDON, April 18 (Reuters) - British Prime Minister Theresa May called on Tuesday for an early election on June 8, 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 rumors 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," 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."

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London road signs associated with the Brexit process
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London road signs associated with the Brexit process
LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 16: The sign for New Change in Central London is seen on March 16, 2017 in London, England. British Prime Minister Theresa May has called for a 'more united' Britain as she prepares to trigger Article 50 to take Britain out of the EU, while also facing fresh calls for a second Scottish Independence referendum. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 16: The sign for Petty France in Central London is seen on March 16, 2017 in London, England. British Prime Minister Theresa May has called for a 'more united' Britain as she prepares to trigger Article 50 to take Britain out of the EU, while also facing fresh calls for a second Scottish Independence referendum. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 21: A street sign for Pound Lane in North London is pictured on March 21, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 17: The sign for Freedom Close in East London is seen on March 17, 2017 in London, England. British Prime Minister Theresa May has called for a 'more united' Britain as she prepares to trigger Article 50 to take Britain out of the EU, while also facing fresh calls for a second Scottish Independence referendum. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 21: A street sign for Europe Road in South East London is pictured on March 21, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 16: The sign for Little Britain in Central London is seen on March 16, 2017 in London, England. British Prime Minister Theresa May has called for a 'more united' Britain as she prepares to trigger Article 50 to take Britain out of the EU, while also facing fresh calls for a second Scottish Independence referendum. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 21: A street sign for Sovereign Close is pictured on March 21, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 17: The sign for Nigel Road in South East London is seen on March 17, 2017 in London, England. British Prime Minister Theresa May has called for a 'more united' Britain as she prepares to trigger Article 50 to take Britain out of the EU, while also facing fresh calls for a second Scottish Independence referendum. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 17: The sign for Union Close in East London is seen on March 17, 2017 in London, England. British Prime Minister Theresa May has called for a 'more united' Britain as she prepares to trigger Article 50 to take Britain out of the EU, while also facing fresh calls for a second Scottish Independence referendum. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 17: The sign for Independents Road in South East London is seen on March 17, 2017 in London, England. British Prime Minister Theresa May has called for a 'more united' Britain as she prepares to trigger Article 50 to take Britain out of the EU, while also facing fresh calls for a second Scottish Independence referendum. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 17: The sign for May Road in East London is seen on March 17, 2017 in London, England. British Prime Minister Theresa May has called for a 'more united' Britain as she prepares to trigger Article 50 to take Britain out of the EU, while also facing fresh calls for a second Scottish Independence referendum. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 16: The sign for Treaty Street in North London is seen on March 16, 2017 in London, England. British Prime Minister Theresa May has called for a 'more united' Britain as she prepares to trigger Article 50 to take Britain out of the EU, while also facing fresh calls for a second Scottish Independence referendum. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 16: The sign for Brussels Road in South West London is seen on March 16, 2017 in London, England. British Prime Minister Theresa May has called for a 'more united' Britain as she prepares to trigger Article 50 to take Britain out of the EU, while also facing fresh calls for a second Scottish Independence referendum. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 16: The sign for Freedom Street in South West London is seen on March 16, 2017 in London, England. British Prime Minister Theresa May has called for a 'more united' Britain as she prepares to trigger Article 50 to take Britain out of the EU, while also facing fresh calls for a second Scottish Independence referendum. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 16: The sign for Parliament Hill in North West London is seen on March 16, 2017 in London, England. British Prime Minister Theresa May has called for a 'more united' Britain as she prepares to trigger Article 50 to take Britain out of the EU, while also facing fresh calls for a second Scottish Independence referendum. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 16: The sign for England's Lane in North West London is seen on March 16, 2017 in London, England. British Prime Minister Theresa May has called for a 'more united' Britain as she prepares to trigger Article 50 to take Britain out of the EU, while also facing fresh calls for a second Scottish Independence referendum. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 16: The sign for Spaniards End in North London is seen on March 16, 2017 in London, England. British Prime Minister Theresa May has called for a 'more united' Britain as she prepares to trigger Article 50 to take Britain out of the EU, while also facing fresh calls for a second Scottish Independence referendum. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 17: The sign for Trust Road in North East London is seen on March 17, 2017 in London, England. British Prime Minister Theresa May has called for a 'more united' Britain as she prepares to trigger Article 50 to take Britain out of the EU, while also facing fresh calls for a second Scottish Independence referendum. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 17: the road sign for Lords Close in South East London is seen on March 17, 2017 in London, England. British Prime Minister Theresa May has called for a 'more united' Britain as she prepares to trigger Article 50 to take Britain out of the EU, while also facing fresh calls for a second Scottish Independence referendum. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 16: The sign for Brussels Road in South West London is seen on March 16, 2017 in London, England. British Prime Minister Theresa May has called for a 'more united' Britain as she prepares to trigger Article 50 to take Britain out of the EU, while also facing fresh calls for a second Scottish Independence referendum. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 16: The sign for Downside Crescent in North West London is seen on March 16, 2017 in London, England. British Prime Minister Theresa May has called for a 'more united' Britain as she prepares to trigger Article 50 to take Britain out of the EU, while also facing fresh calls for a second Scottish Independence referendum. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 16: The sign for Little Sanctuary in Central London is seen on March 16, 2017 in London, England. British Prime Minister Theresa May has called for a 'more united' Britain as she prepares to trigger Article 50 to take Britain out of the EU, while also facing fresh calls for a second Scottish Independence referendum. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 16: The sign for Parliament Hill in North West London is seen on March 16, 2017 in London, England. British Prime Minister Theresa May has called for a 'more united' Britain as she prepares to trigger Article 50 to take Britain out of the EU, while also facing fresh calls for a second Scottish Independence referendum. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)
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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.

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.

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.

(Additional reporting by William James, Kate Holton and Andy Bruce, writing by Estelle Shirbon)

RELATED: Poll - Support for Theresa May's Brexit targets

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