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UK’s May denies good-news budget signals an early election

Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond poses for the media as he holds up the traditional red dispatch box, outside his official residence 11 Downing Street before delivering his annual budget speech to Parliament in London, Monday, Oct. 29, 2018.(AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

LONDON (AP) — British Prime Minister Theresa May insisted Tuesday that this week’s austerity-easing budget does not signal an impending election.

Treasury chief Philip Hammond announced boosts to public spending and an income tax cut for millions of British workers on Monday, in the first significant loosening of purse strings in eight years.

May said the budget shows that “austerity is coming to an end,” but she denied it was meant to pave the way for a snap election in the coming months. Britain’s next general election is not due until 2022, but speculation is growing that May could call one early, soon after the country leaves the European Union on March 29.

Speaking in Oslo, May said “we are not preparing for another general election. That would not be in the national interest.”

May was attending the Northern Future Forum in the Norwegian capital with counterparts from the five Nordic and three Baltic countries.

In early 2017, May repeatedly denied that there would be a snap election — then called one, in a bid to strengthen her hand in Brexit talks.

The move backfired when the Conservatives lost their majority in Parliament, leaving May atop a minority government whose fragility has complicated divorce negotiations with the EU.

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