The United Kingdom has voted in a general election seen as a critical juncture in the Brexit crisis engulfing British politics.
Thursday’s high-stakes ballot came after months of political deadlock over the UK’s drama-filled bid to quit the European Union, with MPs split over how to execute the result of the 2016 referendum on membership of the bloc. Final results are expected by early Friday morning.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party and Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party offered starkly different visions for resolving the impasse and rebuilding the UK after a decade of austerity during a febrile campaign period in the lead up to the vote.
Here are the latest updates:
Friday, December 13
00:55 GMT: Swedish PM says Brexit will happen
Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven says that Britain’s election results, according to exit polls, meant Brexit would now materialise and that time was short to seal a new relationship deal between the EU and the UK.
“It is a very clear result – it will not change by tomorrow morning,” Lofven tells reporters on leaving an EU summit in Brussels that Johnson skipped.
“[It] means that we will move forward with our separation … we now have 11 months to hash out a deal. It’s a very short time.”
00:45 GMT: Labour candidate calls for Corbyn to quit
Labour leader Corbyn must quit, party candidate Gareth Snell says, conceding that he expects to lose his parliamentary seat in Stoke-on-Trent – a city once regarded as a Labour stronghold.
Snell says a combination of the perception that Labour was blocking Britain’s exit from the European Union, and some voters dislike of Corbyn meant he expected to lose the Stoke-on-Trent Central seat.
Asked if it was time for Corbyn and his finance chief John McDonnell to go, Snell replies: “Yes”.
00:35 GMT: Minority Report
As journalist Mehdi Hasan calls the impending result “a dark day for minorities”, former Conservative Party chair Baroness Sayeeda Warsi has called for a moment of introspection. Al Jazeera’s Anealla Safdar and Linah Alsaafin have also reported on Islamophobia within the Conservative Party – read The rot of Tory Islamophobia goes all the way to the top.
My Party must start healing its relationship with British Muslims
Endorsements from #TommyRobinson & #KatieHopkins & colleagues retweeting both is deeply disturbing
Independent Inquiry into #Islamophobia is a must first step
The battle to root out racism must now intensify 💪🏽 https://t.co/ztK4ICpmNX
— Sayeeda Warsi (@SayeedaWarsi) December 12, 2019
00:20 GMT: Contenders, ready?
Oh well, there’s always this to bet on. pic.twitter.com/Qfxnojy9qe
— Ladbrokes Politics (@LadPolitics) December 12, 2019
Thursday, December 12
23:45 GMT: ‘Maybe not the right Brexit’
Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage said Britain would leave the European Union if Boris Johnson’s Conservatives win the majority forecast in the exit poll, but it may not be the hard Brexit he had spent his political career campaigning for.
“We are going to get Brexit. Are we going to get the right one? Maybe not,” he told the BBC. “My purpose was to try to get the right kind of Brexit. If we get half a loaf out of it, well that’s what we’ve achieved.”
23:40 GMT: Swinson in trouble
Boris Johnson isn’t the only party leader with concerns about winning their own seat – the Liberal Democrats Jo Swinson has a 95 percent chance of losing her own constituency of Dunbartonshire East to the SNP. We’re expecting the official result for that constituency at around 3:00am.
23:35 GMT: Question marks over Corbyn leadership
Shadow chancellor John McDonnell has said he will not serve “either as a temporary or a permanent” leader of the Labour Party if Jeremy Corbyn were to stand down.
Speaking on Sky News, he said: “The poll itself, I think it looks as though it’s Brexit dominated, a lot of this I think was Brexit fatigue, people just wanted it over and done with and it put Labour in a very difficult position.
“But also, it is about installing what is generally seen as the most right-wing extreme cabinet that we’ve seen in our history, and it means, therefore, if they have a large majority like this, they will have, therefore, the opportunity to introduce some quite reactionary policies.
“If the electorate have decided this way, that’s democracy, you have to respect it. But I don’t think it will bring the country together, I think it will be divided still.”
It’s over. Labour lost Blyth Valley. So far down the Tory target list we didn’t even prioritise it for #tacticalvoting.
No amount of big city seats are going to balance this out.#ge2019
— Jon Worth (@jonworth) December 12, 2019
23:30 GMT: First official results
Newcastle Central is the first constituency to report; a convincing Labour win, holding on to a party stronghold.
Sunderland reported just a minute or so later, another Labour hold, albeit with a reduced majority.
Blyth Valley came in at number three – and a highly significant result – the Conservatives have won the seat, a former mining area and traditional Labour heartland, for the first time.
23:20 GMT: ‘Flabbergasted’
Kevin Craig is a Labour Party activist and donor. “I’m flabbergasted,” he told Al Jazeera.
“Earlier today, the feedback I was getting was that we had done surprisingly well – we’d rallied in the Midlands, we’d rallied in the east, the Labour party was running out of the campaign balls used to go door-knocking in several regions … But anything like the numbers in the exit poll are hugely bad news, and it does go back to Brexit for me.”
23:10 GMT: Could Boris win election but lose seat?
“If this exit poll proves right, it’s historic, it’s even a landslide,” said Al Jazeera’s Andrew Simmons reporting from outside Parliament.
“An 86-seat majority in Parliament is colossal. It will also show that simple messaging works – ‘get Brexit done’ – a mantra. And for all the criticism that Boris Johnson has received in this campaign; his accusers saying that he lies, that he is not to be trusted, yet we have this massive push towards him – if the poll turns out to be true.”
Emma Hayward is at the count in Johnson’s constituency of Uxbridge in west London.
“Boris Johnson is up against Ali Milani, a Labour campaigner who has been out on the streets for months trying to get people out on his side. There has been a big campaign to try to oust Boris Johnson from this seat – in 2015, he came here with a healthy majority, but that was halved in 2017.
“It’s getting tense here, and it’ll get more tense as the night goes on. There’s no guarantee that he will win here, but he will be buoyed by this poll.”
23:00 GMT: Boris Johnson reacts
Thank you to everyone across our great country who voted, who volunteered, who stood as candidates. We live in the greatest democracy in the world. pic.twitter.com/1MuEMXqWHq
— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) December 12, 2019
22:55 GMT: Sterling soars
The pound has soared against the dollar and the euro in the aftermath of the exit poll, as investors predict a level of stability to the UK’s government absent in recent years.
The pound was up 2.21 percent to 1.347 dollars – an 18-month high – and up 1.38 percent to 1.205 euros, a level close to before the 2016 Brexit referendum.
“Markets hate uncertainty but they would have hated a Corbyn government a lot more,” Neil Wilson, chief market analyst at Markets.com, told the Press Association news agency.
Dean Turner, an economist at UBS Wealth Management, added: “We’ve long said that sterling looks a very cheap currency. If Brexit is indeed completed by the end of January, we see the pound trading as high as 1.35 against the US dollar.
“However, a long-term lack of clarity on Brexit and sterling to produce minimal UK earnings growth next year.”
22:45 GMT: ‘The Brexit we deserve’
David Allen Green is a noted legal blogger who has built a reputation for his commentary on the way Brexit is being delivered.
If the exit poll is correct then it cannot be said, after three-and-a-half years of Brexit chaos and calamity in plain sight, that voters could not have known what they were voting for
This will not be the Brexit we need or want
But it will now be the Brexit we deserve https://t.co/dI4oSblOyn
— David Allen Green (@davidallengreen) December 12, 2019
22:30 GMT: What the pollsters are saying
Chris Hopkins, head of political research at research consultancy Savanta ComRes, told Al Jazeera the exit poll indicated the prime minister’s “pared-back” campaign messaging had worked.
“If this was the Brexit election and it looks like, for all intents and purposes, if this exit poll is correct, that it was, then the simple message of ‘get brexit done’ has clearly resonated,” Hopkins said.
“Johnson is going to want to get his Brexit deal through as soon as he can, and it sounds like he is going to have the numbers to do so at a canter really, very, very easily.”
22:10 GMT: First reactions to exit poll
“Northern Ireland has been thrown into uncertainty, while the Labour vote appears to have collapsed in the Midlands and the north,” Scott Lucas, professor of international politics at the University of Birmingham, has told Al Jazeera. “Could Scotland now look for independence in the next five years?”
The exit poll suggests the Scottish National Party will win 55 seats, a major boost for the pro-independence party. But Johnson’s Conservatives have ruled out an independence vote, and if the exit poll does translate into a large win for the Tories, the SNP’s ambitions will face serious obstacles.
“Many people will now be wondering where this leaves the very many people who are worried about Brexit here in Scotland, which voted by a majority to remain in the EU, and who may now be starting to shift towards favouring independence for Scotland from the United Kingdom,” said Al Jazeera’s Nadim Baba, reporting from Edinburgh, the Scottish capital.
22:05 GMT: Race is on for first official results
With polls now closed, constituencies in the north-east of England are racing to be the first to declare official results. We’re likely to see both Newcastle Central and Houghton and Sunderland South declare within the coming hour.
22:00 GMT: Exit poll figures announced
A poll of more than 20,000 voters suggests Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party winning 368 seats and Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour securing just 191 seats – a very large Conservative majority of 86 seats.
21:50 GMT: Last moments of voting
With voting due to end at 2200GMT, and the release of the all-important exit poll at the same time, Britons are waiting with baited breath to see who will be ruling them in the morning.
Al Jazeera has been covering this election in detail throughout the campaign. Here are some of the highlights of our coverage so far:
Listening Post: Misinformation, lies and media spin: Inside the UK election
‘The rot of Tory Islamophobia goes all the way to top’
Hard Times: One UK town’s struggle in the age of austerity
And while you’re waiting for the results to start trickling in, why not refresh your memory of what is at stake in this election with our handy infographic guide?