London, United Kingdom | AFP | Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservatives are set to lose their overall majority after Britain’s general election, an exit poll showed on Thursday after voting closed.
The Conservatives were set to win 314 seats, followed by Labour on 266, the Scottish National Party on 34 and the Liberal Democrats on 14, the poll for the BBC, Sky and ITV showed.
If confirmed, the poll would be a stunning reversal for May, who had called the election on April 18 in a declared bid to strengthen her hand for the Brexit negotiations.
In the previous parliament, elected just over two years ago, May had a working majority of 17 seats.
If no party wins a majority there is a “hung parliament” and the party with the most seats begins negotiations to see if it can command a majority.
Polls in Britain have a shaky reputation for reliability after the 2015 general elections and the 2016 referendum on British membership of the European Union.
The country notably has a first-past-the-post system in general elections, and the outcome in constituencies can be strongly influenced by local favourites.
Leading figures in both major parties urged caution in early reactions.
“We do need to see some actual results before we can interpret this one way or the other,” said Defence Minister Michael Fallon.
John McDonnell, Labour’s spokesman on finance, said: “We have to have some scepticism about all polls at the moment.
“Let’s see some results before we come to some conclusions,” he said.
In the outgoing parliament, the Conservatives had 330 out of the 650 seats, Labour 229, the Scottish Nationalists 54 and the Liberal Democrats nine.