May wants to force Britain towards a Hard Brexit and crush opposition

BBC News political editor Laura Kuenssberg with Prime Minister Theresa May on BBC Radio 4's Today Pr

BBC News political editor Laura Kuenssberg with Prime Minister Theresa May on BBC Radio 4's Today Programme, Jeff Overs/PA Wire - Credit: PA

Theresa May wants to railroad Britain into a Hard Brexit by increasing her majority in the House of Commons to stifle any opposition or Tory rebellion.

The Prime Minister has admitted she called the shock General Election to give her a clearer 'mandate' during negotiations with the European Union and many now fear her apparent desire for cutting ties with Europe is within her grasp.

She told the Radio 4's Today programme, if she had not performed a U-turn on calling an early vote, the 'crucial part' of the Brexit talks would have occurred in the build-up to a general election, which EU negotiators could have exploited as a 'weakness'.

But she rejected claims the decision to go to the country on June 8 was motivated by political opportunism at a time when the Tories enjoy a healthy opinion poll lead.

She said she wanted a stronger mandate because, with a slim working majority of just 17 MPs, opposition parties were intent on 'frustrating' Brexit, even though she has yet to lose a vote on the issue in the Commons.

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MPs are expected to back May's demand for an early ballot, three years ahead of the next scheduled general election.

Under the terms of the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act, May must secure a two-thirds majority of MPs to bring the election forward by three years from the scheduled date of May 2020.

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'Had the election been in 2020, we would have been coming up to the most crucial part of the negotiations at the end of the negotiations in what would be starting to be the run-up to a general election,' she said.

She also told The Sun 'the Europeans might have seen that as a time of weakness when they could push us' but 'now we will be much freer'.

The Prime Minister, who had repeatedly ruled out calling an early election, said her volte-face was motivated by the need to 'strengthen our hand in negotiation with the European Union'.

She told Today: 'I genuinely came to this decision reluctantly, having looked at the circumstances, and having looked ahead at the process of negotiation.

'I want this country to be able to play the strongest hand possible in those negotiations to get the best possible deal because that's in our long-term interests.

'That's what this is about, it's about asking the people to trust me, to trust us in government, to give us that mandate to go and get that really good deal for the UK.'

She also claimed Labour, the Liberal Democrats and SNP were intent on 'frustrating the Brexit process'.

The Prime Minister said she was committed to regaining control of Britain's borders but refused to be drawn on whether free movement of labour would end as soon as the UK withdrew from the EU.

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