Boris Johnson’s gamble on a snap election looks set to have paid off with the Tories set to win a big majority, according to an exit poll.
The BBC/Sky/ITV poll puts the Conservatives on 368 seats, 42 above the 326 needed for an absolute majority in the Commons.
Labour is predicted to win just 191 seats, the Scottish National Party 55, Liberal Democrats 13, the Brexit Party none, Plaid Cymru three and Greens one. This would give the Tories a majority of 86.
The pound soared against the dollar and the euro as the exit poll emerged.
The Prime Minister greeted the poll by tweeting: “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.”
If borne out by the actual results, Mr Johnson will return to Number 10 on Friday in a position to easily drive through his Brexit deal and take the UK out of the European Union next month.
The result – the largest majority for a Conservative leader since Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s – would be seen as a triumph for his tightly-controlled campaign, which was largely gaffe-free until the final week.
Mr Johnson entered the election without a majority – having just 298 Tory MPs – after some quit the party and he withdrew the whip from others when they rebelled over Brexit.
Former chancellor George Osborne shared his thoughts on Mr Johnson's political outlook as he looks set to be returned as a prime minister with a large majority.
The projected result shows Conservative dominance in England and Wales but Scotland going almost entirely to the SNP.
Tory Cabinet Minister Michael Gove told ITV News a second independence referendum in Scotland is not though inevitable.
The Tories appeared cautious after the exit poll but said a functioning majority “would mean we can now finally end the uncertainty and get Brexit done”.
A Conservative spokesman said: “This is a projection, not a result, it’s important we wait to see the actual results when they come in. What we do know is that voters have rejected Labour’s fudge on Brexit.
“We needed this election because parliament was doing all it could to frustrate the will of the people.
“A functioning majority would mean we can now finally end the uncertainty and get Brexit done. It would allow the country to come together and move forward by delivering the change people voted for in 2016.”
Labour said it was “too early to call the result” but claimed the party had “changed the debate in British politics”.
A party spokesman said: “We, of course, knew this was going to be a challenging election, with Brexit at the forefront of many people’s minds and our country increasingly polarised.
“But Labour has changed the debate in British politics. We have put public ownership, a green industrial revolution, an end to austerity centre stage and introduced new ideas, such as plans for free broadband and free personal care.”