In calling for a special election, she risks a sure term of three years for the chance of five years and a more united post-Brexit Britain.

In the recent Brexit campaign, Theresa May confirmed an already settled reputation as a political leader whose watchword was caution. She was thought to lean privately toward Brexit. She prudently opted for the position held by the majority of the cabinet: Remain. She made one not-very-helpful speech supporting EU membership — and left it at that. And after Leave won the vote and David Cameron resigned, she ran successfully for the Tory leadership on a platform of accepting the electorate’s verdict and going unambiguously for Brexit even if the only version on offer was a so-called hard Brexit. There is caution a-plenty in that record; but there is also a clear evolution toward firmness and decision, especially at moments of crisis.

Prime Minister May’s decision yesterday to call for an early election on June 8 demonstrates that decisiveness. There is undoubtedly a strong case, in both national and partisan terms, for an early election. May’s government has a small parliamentary majority that might in theory be whittled away in by-election losses and, on Brexit, in rebellions from the small coterie of ultra-Remainers on the Tory benches. She is faced also by a hostile anti-Brexit majority in the unelected House of Lords that would happily take advantage of any government reverses to delay or halt the progress toward Brexit.

Scotland’s devolved government has been proposing to hold a pre-Brexit second referendum on independence that would further complicate the government’s calculations. Additional legal actions have been threatened by Remainers outside parliament — one in the courts of the Irish Republic — to make Brexit dependent on the agreement of European courts. And all these alarms and excursions would be taking place during the negotiations between London and Brussels on both Brexit and any successor free-trade agreement, injecting new issues into them and weakening London’s ability to get the best possible deal.

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