Prime Minister Theresa May's Conservatives are set to lose their overall majority after Britain's general elections, an exit poll showed on Thursday after voting closed.
The Conservatives were set to win 314 seats, followed by Labour on 266, the Liberal Democrats on 14 and the Scottish National Party on 34, the poll for the BBC, Sky and ITV showed. Results will come in over the next few hours for all 650 seats in the House of Commons.
The forecast is much better than expected for the opposition Labour Party, which had been expected to lose seats under left-wing leader Jeremy Corbyn.
The poll was released after polls closed at 10 pm (2100 GMT), ending an unsettled national election held in the shadow of three deadly attacks in as many months.
TRT World's Simon McGregor-Wood is in London with the latest updates.
Political deadlock in London could derail negotiations with the other 27 EU countries ahead of Britain's exit from the bloc, due in March 2019, before they even begin in earnest.
A delay in forming a government could push back the start of Brexit talks, currently scheduled for June 19, and reduce the time available for what are expected to be the most complex negotiations in post-World War Two European history.
If the exit poll is correct, Labour could attempt to form a government with smaller parties such as the Scottish National Party (SNP), the Liberal Democrats, Welsh nationalist party Plaid Cymru and the Greens. All of those parties strongly oppose most of May's policies on domestic issues such as public spending cuts.
Whatever the final result, our positive campaign has changed politics for the better. pic.twitter.com/EHLta2rnIW— Jeremy Corbyn (@jeremycorbyn) June 9, 2017
But analysts were treating the exit poll with caution. In the last election, in 2015, the corresponding poll incorrectly predicted May's predecessor David Cameron would fall short of a majority.
Theresa May's defence minister Michael Fallon weighed in, urging observers to wait for the final results.
"These exit polls have been wrong in the past, in 2015 they underestimated our vote. I think in a couple of elections before that they overestimated our vote. So we do need to see some actual results before we interpret this one way or the other," Fallon said.
Speaking hours after the exit polls were released, May said her Conservatives would ensure much-needed "stability" for Britain.
"The country needs a period of stability and whatever the results are, the Conservative party will ensure that we can fulfil that duty to ensure that stability," May said after being re-elected to her seat in Maidenhead near London.
Conservative support from Northern Ireland
The prospect of no clear winner emerging from Britain's election is "perfect territory" for Northern Ireland's like-minded Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and they would be willing to negotiate with Theresa May's Conservatives, a senior MP said on Thursday
"This is perfect territory for the DUP obviously because if the Conservatives are just short of an overall majority, it puts us in a very, very strong negotiating position and it is one we would take up with relish," Jeffrey Donaldson told BBC television.
"We will be serious players if there is a hung parliament. We will talk to whoever is the largest party, it looks like the Conservatives. We have a lot in common, we want to see Brexit work, we want to see the Union strengthened. I think there is a lot of common ground."
The DUP won eight seats in the last election in 2015.
This is turning into a great night for the Union.— Nigel Dodds (@NigelDoddsDUP) June 9, 2017
The influence Northern Ireland may have after the election was reinforced by the Irish nationalist Sinn Fein party's pledge to maintain its policy of not taking its seats, a position that will cut the numbers needed to win a majority.
Sinn Fein was on course to win as many as 7 of the remaining seats, up from 4 in 2015. That would mean the winning party would need 323 seats for a majority, rather than 326.
Political leaders in Northern Ireland had cast the election as a referendum on whether voters want to be part of the UK or neighbouring Ireland after Brexit and a nationalist surge at regional elections in March raised the stakes in the long and divisive dispute over the province's status.
The outcome allowed for interpretations either way and with Sinn Fein and the DUP deadlocked in talks to restore the province's devolved assembly, others suggested the latest election would only serve to complicate those negotiations.
Calls for May to quit
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn called on Theresa May to step down after losses for her Conservative Party in the general election.
May "has lost Conservative seats, lost votes, lost support and lost confidence. I would have thought that's enough to go," Corbyn said after being re-elected in his Islington North constituency in central London
Meanwhile the former leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), Nigel Farage, said he believed that whatever the election outcome, Theresa May was "toast."
"I think, whatever happens, Theresa May is toast, it's just a matter of time," he told ITV News.
"Quite frankly, I don't know what's going to happen here," Farage admitted. "My fear is that Corbyn forms a coalition with the SNP and a few Lib Dems and we look down the barrels of a second referendum in two years time."
Farage, who campaigned avidly for a Brexit in last year's referendum, also told the BBC that the Brexit may be in "trouble" if Corbyn, who campaigned for the UK to remain in the EU, takes over as prime minister.
Picking a Remainer to lead a Brexit party in a Brexit election was a huge error. pic.twitter.com/g734zJ43iH— Nigel Farage (@Nigel_Farage) June 9, 2017
Scottish National Party leader Nicola Sturgeon said the results were a "disaster" for May.
"This is a disaster for Theresa May, she called an election clearly very arrogantly thinking that she was going to crush the opposition, sweep everybody aside and cruise to a landside majority, her position is very, very difficult," Sturgeon said.
Sturgeon also called the results "disappointing" for her party, which lost seats to the Conservatives, Labour and Liberal Democrats.
She added that her party, which has been campaigning for a re-run of Scotland's 2014 independence referendum, had "a lot of thinking" to do.
Liberal Democrats say coalition "very difficult"
Former Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg said on Thursday he could not see any circumstance in which his party would prop up a minority Conservative government in Britain.
Asked by ITV if there was any circumstance in which the Lib Dems could prop up the Conservatives, Clegg said: "No."
We are getting a lot of calls so just to be clear: No Coalition. No deals.— Lib Dem Press Office (@LibDemPress) June 8, 2017
Another former party leader, Menzies Campbell, also said the Liberal Democrat party would find it very difficult to join a coalition again after suffering severe damage from its deal with the Conservatives after the 2010 election.
"(Party leader) Tim Farron made it very clear. He said no pact, no deal, no coalition. We've had our fingers burnt by coalition, I don't need to tell you that. I find it very, very difficult to see how Tim Farron would be able to go back on what he previously said," Campbell told the BBC.
Exit polls suggest the Liberal Democrats will increase their number of seats in Britain's 650-member parliament from nine to 14. The results of the exit poll show that Prime Minister Theresa May's Conservative Party looks short of an outright majority.
The exit poll sent shockwaves through financial markets. Sterling fell more than two cents against the US dollar.
Former British finance minister George Osborne said the forecast would be "completely catastrophic" for Prime Minister May and the Conservative Party.
"It is early days. It's a poll. If the poll is anything like accurate this is completely catastrophic for the Conservatives and for Theresa May," Osborne told ITV News.
"It's difficult to see if these numbers were right how they would put together the coalition to remain in office. But equally it's quite difficult looking at those numbers to see how Labour could put together a coalition so it's on a real knife edge.