Prime Minister Theresa May has announced a snap general election.
There was anticipation over the unexpected statement outside Downing Street, which is only used for major announcements.
She will now need to get the backing of two thirds of MPs in the House of Commons tomorrow, Wednesday, to overturn the Fixed Term Parliament Act meaning the next General Election must be 2020.
The Prime Minister used to a statement in Downing Street to set out the case for going back on her previous pledge there would be no election ahead of 2020.
Mrs May said the lack of “unity” in Westminster over the Brexit process was weakening the Government’s negotiating hand with Brussels and meant an election was required.
“We need a General Election and we need one now,” she said.
Explaining the timing, Mrs May said it would coincide with the European Union leaders finalising their Brexit negotiating position and come before full talks begin.
Under the terms of the Fixed Term Parliament Act, MPs will have to vote for an early election in Parliament tomorrow.
Lib Dem leader Tim Farron said: “This election is your chance to change the direction of our country.
“If you want to avoid a disastrous Hard Brexit. If you want to keep Britain in the Single Market. If you want a Britain that is open, tolerant and united, this is your chance.
“Only the Liberal Democrats can prevent a Conservative majority.”
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said he welcomed Mrs May’s announcement because it gave “the British people the chance to vote for a government that will put the interests of the majority first”.
“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.”
More to follow...