(Reuters) – Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party will win an overwhelming victory in Britain’s election with a majority of 86 seats in parliament to deliver Brexit on Jan. 31, an exit poll showed on Thursday.
The exit poll showed Johnson’s Conservatives would win a landslide of 368 seats, more than enough for a very comfortable majority in the 650-seat parliament and the biggest Conservative national election win since Margaret Thatcher’s 1987 triumph.
Labour were forecast by the poll to win 191 seats, the worst result for the party since 1935. The Scottish National Party would win 55 seats and the Liberal Democrats 13, the poll said. The Brexit Party were not forecast to win any.
“That would be a phenomenal victory for the Conservative Party and Boris Johnson will feel completely vindicated with the gamble that he took,” said John Bercow, the former speaker of the House of Commons.
“That would be an absolutely dramatic victory,” he said.
Sterling surged after the exit poll, hitting its highest against the euro since July 2016, shortly after the Brexit referendum. Versus the dollar it jumped 2.3% to $1.3480.
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 the exit poll is accurate and 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.
BREXIT FAR FROM OVER
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.
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.