Britain’s ruling Conservative Party appeared on course for a sweeping victory in Thursday’s snap election, an exit poll showed, paving the way for Britain to leave the EU next month.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s party was forecast to win 368 out of 650 seats in the lower House of Commons — a large majority — according to the survey by the Sky News, ITV and BBC broadcasters published as polls closed at 2200 GMT.
The pound jumped on the projected results from what has been described as the most important election in Britain in a generation.
Johnson had campaigned on a promise to “Get Brexit Done”, vowing to end years of political turmoil over Britain’s future that has weighed on the economy and divided the nation.
Johnson vowed that if he won a majority of MPs, he would get the divorce deal he struck with Brussels through parliament in time to meet the next Brexit deadline of January 31.
This would formalise the end of almost five decades of integration between Britain and the EU, although both sides still need to thrash out a new trade and security agreement.
Britons had braved winter storms and howling winds as they lined up to cast ballots in the country’s third election in five years.
Johnson’s victory, if confirmed by official results, sounds the death knell for hopes among Remainers that Britain might reverse Brexit through holding a second referendum.
The main opposition Labour party had promised a “People’s Vote” but under the leadership of left-wing Jeremy Corbyn, was projected to win just 191 seats.
Corbyn’s job is now likely on the line after presiding over Labour’s second successive electoral defeat. The party has been out of office since 2010, and could be until 2024.
The anti-Brexit Liberal Democrats were forecast to win 13 seats, the Scottish National Party (SNP) 55 and the Greens one seat.
The Brexit Party, led by arch eurosceptic Nigel Farage, was predicted to win no seats.
– Tight campaign –
Johnson had gambled in calling an early election, as he remains a polarising figure in Britain thanks to his leading role in the 2016 EU referendum vote for Brexit.
The Conservatives were ahead in the polls from the start, while Corbyn was the most unpopular opposition leader for a generation.
But experts warned of the risk of an upset from shifting allegiances caused by Brexit — which half the population still oppose.
Johnson ran a tight campaign, however, focused on a few key messages: Brexit, more funding for police, schools, hospitals and infrastructure.
Labour had a sweeping plan for nationalising key industries, investing huge sums in moving to a green economy and shaking up the corporate world.
On Brexit, it played down its own message of a second referendum amid divisions in its own top team about the possibility of staying in the EU.
Johnson was also helped by the decision by Farage to stand down his Brexit Party in Tory held seats, to avoid splitting the pro-Leave vote.
Once all the results are in — and if he is confirmed winner — he will on Friday visit Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace to be formally reappointed as prime minister.
MPs are due to take their seats on Tuesday with Johnson already preparing to outline his legislative programme on Thursday.
He has promised to put his Brexit plan to parliament before the Christmas break, although the main debates and votes in the Commons and the unelected House of Lords are expected in January.
If Britain leaves the EU as planned on January 31, nothing will immediately change thanks to a transition phase scheduled to end on December 31.
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