People made the same joke about Enda after the UK's announcement

Sterling jumped as much as 1.6 percent against the dollar on Tuesday to hit its highest levels since mid-December, after British Prime Minister Theresa May surprised markets by calling for an early parliamentary election in June.

But opponents accused her of cynically seeking to capitalise on favourable opinion polls to seek an increase to her slender 17-seat majority.

Division in Westminster will risk our ability to make a success of Brexit and it will cause damaging uncertainty and instability to the country.

May - who took office last July after her predecessor David Cameron stepped down - said an election is needed because the country is coming together but Parliament is not.

The dramatic announcement caps almost a year of tumult in British politics following the Brexit vote in June 2016 that included the resignation of May's predecessor David Cameron and her rapid rise to power last year.

The decision, which comes just three weeks after the prime minister began the formal Brexit process, stunned many British politicians as they returned from their Easter break.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon described the election call as "a huge political miscalculation by the Prime Minister" which would allow the SNP to reinforce its democratic mandate to stage a second referendum on independence.

"Instead of being at the mercy of the Brexiteers, May will now get a very, very strong mandate that will allow her to negotiate a reasonable deal with the European Union", the senior official said.

European Council president Donald Tusk said he had a "good" telephone conversation with Ms May. Tom Blenkinsop said he would stand down from his Middlesbrough South seat due to "significant and irreconcilable differences with the current Labour leadership", while former shadow chancellor Alan Johnson also said he would not stand and that it would be "best for the party" for him to quit.

The next election wasn't scheduled until 2020, and the safer play was to negotiate Brexit first.

A general election will nearly certainly change the parliamentary arithmetic but it is very hard to see how it will unite the country on a question on which it remains so fundamentally divided.

Theresa May made a decision to call a snap general election because she feared Jeremy Corbyn was on the verge of resigning, Downing Street sources have said.

'We need innovative designs and smarter procurement approaches to solving the desperate housing crisis, renewing and expanding our schools and ensuring that we have a sustainable environment that works across the United Kingdom, ' she added.

Both Labour and Liberal Democrats have officially welcomed the early poll and are expected to back it in Wednesday afternoon's vote.

In the wake of an announcement that May will make an unexpected statement in Downing Street at 11:15 a.m. (1015GMT), the pound was down 0.3 percent at $1.2525.

Didn't the PM say she wouldn't do this?

She also revealed a concern that the May 2020 election date stipulated by the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act would leave her vulnerable to pressure from Brussels as she neared the end of the two-year withdrawal negotiations in March 2019.

  • Arturo Norris