Prime minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party will win a majority of 86 seats in Britain’s election, giving him the numbers in parliament he needs to deliver Brexit on Jan. 31, an exit poll indicated on Thursday.
The exit poll showed Johnson’s Conservatives would win 368 seats, enough for a comfortable outright majority in the 650-seat parliament. Labour were forecast to win 191 seats, the Scottish National Party 55 seats and the Liberal Democrats 13.
Official results will be declared over the next seven hours.
In the last five national elections, only one exit poll has got the outcome wrong – in 2015 when the poll predicted a hung parliament when in fact the Conservatives won a majority, taking 14 more seats than forecast.
If Johnson’s bet on a snap election has paid off, he will move swiftly to ratify the Brexit deal he struck with the European Union so that the United Kingdom can leave on Jan. 31 – 10 months later than initially planned.
Johnson called the first Christmas election since 1923 to break what he said was the paralysis of Britain’s political system after more than three years of crisis over how, when or even if to leave the European Union.
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.
The exit poll was produced by three broadcasters – the BBC, ITV and Sky – who teamed up to jointly produce similar surveys in the last three elections, held in 2010, 2015 and 2017.
In 2010 and 2017, their exit polls accurately predicted the overall outcome and were close to forecasting the correct number of seats for the two main parties. However in 2015, it predicted a hung parliament when in fact the Conservatives won a majority, taking 14 more seats than forecast.
Johnson’s strategy was to breach Labour’s so called “Red Wall” of seats across the Brexit-supporting areas of the Midlands and northern England where he cast his political opponents as the out-of-touch enemies of Brexit.
While a majority will allow Johnson to lead the United Kingdom out of the club it first joined in 1973, Brexit is far from over: He faces the daunting task of negotiating a trade agreement with the EU in just 11 months.
After Jan. 31 Britain will enter a transition period during which it will negotiate a new relationship with the EU27.
This can run until the end of December 2022 under the current rules, but the Conservatives made an election promise not to extend the transition period beyond the end of 2020.