British Prime Minister Theresa May's ruling Conservative party
will lose its parliamentary majority in the crucial general election, according to an official exit poll, which may lead to a hung parliament and delay Brexit
The exit poll came after the voting was closed Thursday evening.
The Conservative party
is shy of the magic 326 figure for an overall majority in the House of Commons with the poll predicting 314 seats for the Tories. This is down from the 331 won by the party in the 2015 general election and indicates a hung parliament.
The Jeremy Corbyn-led Opposition Labour Party
is expected to bag 266 seats, up from its last tally of 232, according to the NOP/Ipsos MORI poll for BBC/ITV/Sky channels.
Meanwhile, Newcastle made history by becoming the first constituency to declare its result at 2300 (local time) in favour of the Labour party.
The constituency of Houghton and Sunderland South in north-east England which had maintained its lead as the first to declare since the 1990s lost out as it declared a few minutes later at 2305 (local time), also in favour of the Labour party.
While both seats were strongholds for the Opposition and predicted to go to the Labour party, it is the strong vote share of the party which indicates a very slight swing away from the Tories towards the Labour.
The indications are that Brexit
is set to play a central role in the general election, with the constituencies strongly in favour of remaining in the European Union (EU) in the June 2016 referendum voting for Labour and those in favour of leaving the EU going for the Tories.
A minority Conservative government could probably rely on the votes of the 10 or more MPs of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) from Northern Ireland. But a minority Labour-led government could rely on Welsh Plaid Cymru's three MPs, the one Green MP and the SDLP (three in the last parliament).
However, as it stands, none of the parties will have an easy ride to cobble together a ruling majority.
The exit poll, traditionally released by UK broadcasters at 10 pm when the polls close, has a history of being fairly accurate in terms of the final picture that emerges once the results are declared.
Based on the exit poll forecast, May's gamble to call a snap general election in the hope of winning a stronger mandate and a larger majority seems to have not paid off as it shows she may end up 12 short of the magic number. However, there is still a chance the party might just slip past the 326 MPs mark by the time the final results are declared.
The far-right UK Independence Party (UKIP) is set for a washout with no MPs while the Scottish National Party (SNP) are forecast to get 34, the Liberal Democrats 14 and the Green Party one MP, the exit poll said.
It suggests Labour would gain 34 seats, the Conservatives would lose 17 seats, the Lib Dems would gain six and the SNP lose 22 seats.
In total, 30,450 people were interviewed as they exited from 144 polling stations across the UK.
Even if May scrapes to an overall majority, she would have failed in her central objective in calling a snap poll which was to increase her majority substantially. Most opinion polls and bookmakers's betting odds had been forecasting a strong majority for the ruling party of between 50 and 70 MPs.
The markets reacted to the uncertainty with the pound sterling dropping against the dollar as the outcome of the results threw up the prospect of a hung Parliament.
The UK electorate voted to elect 650 MPs for the House of Commons, with about 45.8 million people entitled to vote. The final result is expected by Friday afternoon but the overall picture is likely to become clear in the early hours.