With three years still remaining to Britain's Conservative Government elected in 2015, Prime Minister Theresa May has decided to seek a fresh mandate on June 8. She has every reason to do so, she is about to lead the country into the Brexit negotiations, she would like her leadership succession since the last election to be endorsed by the public and, for her, the timing might never be better.
Her Government enjoys a 20-point lead in the polls over a Labour Party with a deeply unpopular leader. Under Jeremy Corbyn not even the Fabian Society thinks Labour has a chance. Nor do minor parties look likely to trouble the Conservatives. The UK Independence Party has lost its leader and its purpose since convincing enough English voters to take the country out of the European Union. The Liberal Democrats have paid a high price for entering a coalition with the Conservatives in 2010. They were reduced to just nine seats in 2015 and will campaign this time as the only party still committed to keeping Britain in the EU. That may be worth a parcel of votes from intractable remainers but the bulk of the electorate has moved on.
If the Government wins this election comfortably it will have a five-year term taking it well past Britain's exit from the EU. Had it had stayed on track for an election in 2020 it would have been risking fall-out from an exit on unfavourable terms in 2019. As things stand, those negotiations do not look promising for Britain. It wants somehow to retain free trade with the EU without any obligation to accept free movement of people.
The European Commission has made it clear these freedoms are indivisible and Britain's Prime Minister has made it equally clear that she will not compromise on Britain's desire to recover complete control of its borders. Though she did not vote to leave in the referendum, she subsequently won the party leadership with convincing respect for the referendum result and her resolve has only hardened since then. To the dismay of many Britons who do business with Europe, she has declared, "no deal is better than a bad deal", a "bad" deal being one that may be accused of compromising Britain's sovereignty in any sense.
The great irony of this popular concern for sovereignty is that the Government's first step towards Brexit has been a piece of legislation importing EU law wholesale into British law. All the European Court's rulings on labour and human rights and the petty regulations that have offended so many, will continue to apply in the UK after its exit and none of the leave campaigners seem to mind.
The Prime Minister has called the election on the pretext that Parliament is not giving her unqualified support on Brexit and thereby damaging her chances of getting the deal she seeks. But there is room for debate on the approach she is taking to negotiations and voters deserve to hear alternatives. It would be a pity if an opportunistic, one-sided election forecloses the options for an exit deal that will shape Britain's future.