Theresa May has called an early general election for June 8 in an announcement which has stunned Westminster.
The Prime Minister had repeatedly denied that she would call an election before the next scheduled poll in 2020.
But following a Cabinet meeting at Downing Street she said she would go to the country this year.
Speaking outside Number 10, the Prime Minister said the Cabinet had agreed to call an early election.
The move takes place against the backdrop of the country's decision to leave the European Union in last year's referendum.
Justifying the decision, Mrs May said: "The country is coming together but Westminster is not."
She said the "division in Westminster will risk our ability to make a success of Brexit".
Explaining her change of heart on an early election, Mrs May said: "I have concluded the only way to guarantee certainty and security for years ahead is to hold this election."
Mrs May said she was acting now because of the opposition in Parliament to the Government's plans for Brexit.
"Our opponents believe because the Government's majority is so small that our resolve will weaken and that they can force us to change. They are wrong," she said.
"They under-estimate our determination to get the job done and I am not prepared to let them endanger the security of millions of working people across the country, b ecause what they are doing jeopardises the work we must do to prepare for Brexit at home and it weakens the Government's negotiating position in Europe."
Without a snap general election, Mrs May said "political game-playing" in Westminster would continue and lead to negotiations with the EU reaching their "most difficult stage" in the run-up to the previously scheduled 2020 vote.
"Division in Westminster will risk our ability to make a success of Brexit, and it will cause damaging uncertainty and instability to the country," she said.
"So we need a general election and we need one now.
"Because we have at this moment a one-off chance to get this done, while the European Union agrees its negotiating position and before the detailed talks begin."