LONDON — British Prime Minister Theresa May said Tuesday she wants to hold a general election on June 8, in a surprise announcement that comes as the British leader attempts to solidify her position as the country embarks on exit negotiations with the European Union.

May made the unscheduled statement outside her office and residence in Downing Street, in central London. She previously denied speculation that she would call an early election in the wake of Britain’s vote to leave the EU in June. The next general election was not expected before 2020. The move needs parliamentary approval, widely expected to secured Wednesday.

“After the country voted to leave the EU, Britain needed certainty, stability and strong leadership. Since I became prime minister the government has delivered precisely that," May said in her statement. "I have concluded the only way to guarantee certainty and security for years ahead is to hold this election," she added.

Recent polls have shown that May’s Conservative Party has a commanding lead over the opposition Labour Party but many Labour politicians along with Liberal Democrat and Scottish National Party parliamentarians have threatened to do all they can to try to block any final Brexit agreement between May’s government and the EU.

The vote is viewed as an attempt by May to secure a new mandate in Brexit negotiations. May became leader after her predecessor David Cameron’s resignation in the wake of the vote for Brexit in 2016. She has not faced a public vote on her leadership.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn welcomed the announcement. He said it would “give the British people the chance to vote for a government that will put the interests of the majority first.”