An exit poll in Britain’s election projected Thursday that Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party would likely win a solid majority of seats in Parliament, a decisive outcome that should allow Johnson to fulfill his plan to take the UK out of the European Union next month.
The survey, released just after polls closed, predicted the Conservatives would get 368 of the 650 House of Commons seats and the Labour Party 191. That would be the biggest Tory majority for several decades, and a major setback for Labour.
Based on interviews with voters leaving 144 polling stations across the country, the poll is conducted for a consortium of UK broadcasters and is regarded as a reliable, though not exact, indicator of the likely result. The poll also projects 55 seats for the Scottish National Party and 13 for the Liberal Democrats.
Ballots are being counted, with official results expected early Friday.
The election will pave the way for Brexit under Prime Minister Boris Johnson or propel Britain towards another referendum that could ultimately reverse the decision to leave the European Union.
More than 4,000 polling venues across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, including a windmill, several pubs, a hair salon and a chip shop, opened their doors for a day of voting that ends at 2200 GMT.
Official results from the bulk of United Kingdom's 650 different constituencies begin to come in from 2300 GMT to 0500 GMT.
There are 46 million eligible voters in the UK, with 650 seats in the House of Commons up for grabs.
Any party winning 326 or more seats in the House of Commons will be able to form a government on its own.
After failing to deliver Brexit by an October 31 deadline, Johnson called the December 12 election to break what he cast as political paralysis that had thwarted Britain's departure and sapped confidence in the economy.
The face of the "Leave" campaign in the 2016 referendum, 55-year-old Johnson fought the election under the slogan of "Get Brexit Done", promising to end the deadlock and spend more on health, education and the police.
His main opponent, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, 70, promised higher public spending, nationalisation of key services, taxes on the wealthy and another referendum on Brexit.
All major opinion polls suggest Johnson will win, though pollsters got the 2016 referendum wrong and their models predict outcomes ranging from a hung parliament to the biggest Conservative landslide since the era of Margaret Thatcher.
"We could have a Conservative majority government which will get Brexit done and unleash Britain’s potential," Johnson told campaigners. "This election is our chance to end the gridlock but the result is on a knife-edge."
Corbyn said the Conservatives were the party of "billionaires" while Labour represented the many.
"You can vote for despair and vote for the dishonesty of this government, or you can vote Labour and get a government that can bring hope to the future," he said.
TRT World's Sarah Morice gives details
Brexit in the balance
While Brexit framed the United Kingdom's first December election since 1923, the tortuous exit from the EU has variously fatigued, enthused and enraged voters while eroding loyalties to the two major parties.
A majority would allow Johnson to lead the country out of the club it first joined in 1973, but Brexit would still be far from over.
He faces the daunting task of negotiating a trade agreement with the EU in a self-imposed deadline of 11 months.
After January 31, Britain would enter a transition period during which it would negotiate a new relationship with the EU27. He has pledged to do that by the end of 2020.
Johnson, the New York-born former mayor of London, won the top job in July.
Johnson defied critics by striking a new deal with the EU but was unable to navigate the maze of a divided British parliament and was defeated by opponents whom he portrayed as traitors subverting the will of the people.
The United Kingdom voted by 52 percent-48 percent in 2016 to quit the EU after former Premier David Cameron triggered a referendum. But parliament has been deadlocked after Theresa May took over from Cameron, and betting unsuccessfully during a 2017 snap election over how, when and even whether to leave the bloc.
Fraught with missteps
Corbyn, once an opponent of the EU who now says he would remain neutral if he was a prime minister overseeing another referendum, was repeatedly grilled over his Brexit plans. He pledged to overthrow a "rigged system" he said was run by billionaires and tax dodgers.
Both made missteps during the campaign.
Johnson in one interview refused to look at a picture of a sick four-year-old boy forced to lie on the floor of a hospital and then inexplicably took the phone from a reporter and pocketed it. He later apologised.
Corbyn, a veteran campaigner for Palestinian rights, repeatedly avoided apologising for what some party members, lawmakers and Jewish leaders say is his failure to tackle anti-Semitism from some elements within the party. He apologised eventually.