An exit poll in Britain’s election projected Thursday that Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party would likely win a solid majority of seats in Parliament, a decisive outcome that should allow Johnson to fulfill his plan to take the U.K. out of the European Union next month.

The survey, released just after polls closed, predicted the Conservatives would get 368 of the 650 House of Commons seats and the Labour Party 191. That would be the biggest Tory majority for several decades, and a major setback for Labour.

Based on interviews with voters leaving 144 polling stations across the country, the poll is conducted for a consortium of U.K. broadcasters and is regarded as a reliable, though not exact, indicator of the likely result. The poll also projects 55 seats for the Scottish National Party and 13 for the Liberal Democrats.

Voters queue outside St Andrews Church polling station in Balham, south London, just hours before voting closes for the 2019 General Election, Thursday, Dec. 12, 2019. Britons who have endured more than three years of wrangling over their country’s messy divorce from the European Union cast ballots Thursday in an election billed as a way out of the Brexit stalemate in this deeply divided nation. (Victoria Jones/PA via AP)
Voters queue outside St Andrews Church polling station in Balham, south London, just hours before voting closes for the 2019 General Election, Thursday, Dec. 12, 2019. (Victoria Jones/PA via AP)

Britons who have endured more than three years of wrangling over their country’s messy divorce from the European Union cast ballots Thursday in an election billed as a way out of the Brexit stalemate in this deeply divided nation.

U.K. voters are deciding Thursday who they want to resolve the stalemate over Brexit in a parliamentary election widely seen as one of the most decisive in modern times.

Ballots are being counted, with official results expected early Friday.

British opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, gestures after casting his vote in the general election, in Islington, London, England, Thursday, Dec. 12, 2019 .U.K. voters are deciding Thursday who they want to resolve the stalemate over Brexit in a parliamentary election widely seen as one of the most decisive in modern times. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)
British opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, gestures after casting his vote in the general election, in Islington, London, England, Thursday, Dec. 12, 2019 .(AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

A decisive Conservative win would vindicate Johnson’s decision to press for Thursday’s early election, which was held nearly two years ahead of schedule. He said that if the Conservatives won a majority, he would get Parliament to ratify his Brexit divorce deal and take the U.K. out of the EU by the current Jan. 31 deadline.

That would fulfill the decision of British voters in 2016 to leave the EU, three and a half years after the divisive referendum result. It would start a new phase of negotiations on future relations between Britain and the 27 remaining EU members.

Johnson did not mention the exit poll as he thanked voters in a tweet. “Thank you to everyone across our great country who voted, who volunteered, who stood as candidate,” he said. “We live in the greatest democracy in the world.”

The results of an exit poll are projected onto the outside of Broadcasting House in London, just after voting closed for the 2019 General Election, Thursday, Dec. 12, 2019. An exit poll in Britain’s election projects that Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party likely will win a majority of seats in Parliament. That outcome would allow Johnson to fulfill his plan to take the U.K. out of the European Union next month. (Jeff Overs/BBC via AP)
The results of an exit poll are projected onto the outside of Broadcasting House in London, just after voting closed for the 2019 General Election, Thursday, Dec. 12, 2019. An exit poll in Britain’s election projects that Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party likely will win a majority of seats in Parliament. That outcome would allow Johnson to fulfill his plan to take the U.K. out of the European Union next month. (Jeff Overs/BBC via AP)

Conservative Party chairman James Cleverly said he was cautious about the poll, but that if substantiated it would give the party “a big majority” that could be used to “get Brexit done.”

The pound surged on the exit poll’s forecast, jumping over two cents against the dollar, to $1.3445, the highest in more than a year and a half. Many Investors hope a Conservative win would speed up the Brexit process and ease, at least in the short term, some of the uncertainty that has corroded business confidence since the 2016 vote.

A Labour drubbing would raise questions over the future of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who will have led his left-of-center party to two electoral defeats since 2017.

A man dressed as Father Christmas enters his grotto at the Dunster Tithe Barn near Minehead, Somerset, England which is being used as a polling station in the 2019 general election, Thursday Dec. 12, 2019. U.K. voters were deciding Thursday who they want to resolve the stalemate over Brexit in a parliamentary election seen as one of the most important since the end of World War II. (Ben Birchall/PA via AP)
A man dressed as Father Christmas enters his grotto at the Dunster Tithe Barn near Minehead, Somerset, England which is being used as a polling station in the 2019 general election, Thursday Dec. 12, 2019. (Ben Birchall/PA via AP)

“Certainty this exit poll is a devastating blow,” said Labour trade spokesman Barry Gardiner. “It’s a deeply depressing result.”

The general election in Britain on Thursday will bring a new Parliament to power and may lead to a change at the top if Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party doesn’t fare well with voters. Johnson called the early election in hopes of gaining lawmakers to support his Brexit policy.

A man carries a box away from a polling station in London, Thursday, Dec. 12, 2019. The general election in Britain on Thursday will bring a new Parliament to power and may lead to a change at the top if Prime Minister Boris Johnson's Conservative Party doesn't fare well with voters. Johnson called the early election in hopes of gaining lawmakers to support his Brexit policy. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)
A man carries a box away from a polling station in London, Thursday, Dec. 12, 2019. The general election in Britain on Thursday will bring a new Parliament to power and may lead to a change at the top if Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party doesn’t fare well with voters. Johnson called the early election in hopes of gaining lawmakers to support his Brexit policy. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

Many voters casting ballots on Thursday hoped the election might finally find a way out of the Brexit stalemate in this deeply divided nation.

On a dank, gray day with outbreaks of blustery rain, voters went to polling stations in schools, community centers, pubs and town halls after a bad-tempered five-week campaign rife with mudslinging and misinformation.

Opinion polls had given the Conservatives a steady lead, but the result was considered hard to predict, because the issue of Brexit cuts across traditional party loyalties.

Britain's Prime Minister and Conservative Party leader Boris Johnson with his dog Dilyn as he leaves after voting in the general election at Methodist Central Hall, Westminster, London, Thursday, Dec. 12, 2019. The general election in Britain on Thursday will bring a new Parliament to power and may lead to a change at the top if Prime Minister Boris Johnson's Conservative Party doesn't fare well with voters. Johnson called the early election in hopes of gaining lawmakers to support his Brexit policy. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
Britain’s Prime Minister and Conservative Party leader Boris Johnson with his dog Dilyn as he leaves after voting in the general election at Methodist Central Hall, Westminster, London, Thursday, Dec. 12, 2019.  (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

Three and a half years after the U.K. voted by 52%-48% to leave the EU, Britons remain split over whether to leave the 28-nation bloc, and lawmakers have proved incapable of agreeing on departure terms.

Johnson pushed for the early election — Britain’s first December vote since 1923 — to try to break the political logjam. He campaigned relentlessly on a promise to “Get Brexit done” by getting Parliament to ratify his “oven-ready” divorce deal with the EU and take Britain out of the bloc as scheduled on Jan. 31.

The Conservatives focused much of their energy on trying to win in a “red wall” of working-class towns in central and northern England that have elected Labour lawmakers for decades but also voted strongly in 2016 to leave the EU. That effort got a boost when the Brexit Party led by Nigel Farage decided at the last minute not to contest 317 Conservative-held seats to avoid splitting the pro-Brexit vote.

Britain's Prime Minister and Conservative Party leader Boris Johnson holds his dog Dilyn after voting in the general election at Methodist Central Hall, Westminster, London, Thursday, Dec. 12, 2019. The general election in Britain on Thursday will bring a new Parliament to power and may lead to a change at the top if Prime Minister Boris Johnson's Conservative Party doesn't fare well with voters. Johnson called the early election in hopes of gaining lawmakers to support his Brexit policy. (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)
Britain’s Prime Minister and Conservative Party leader Boris Johnson holds his dog Dilyn after voting in the general election at Methodist Central Hall, Westminster, London, Thursday, Dec. 12, 2019. (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)

Labour, which is largely but ambiguously pro-EU, faced competition for anti-Brexit voters from the centrist Liberal Democrats, Scottish and Welsh nationalist parties, and the Greens.

On Brexit, the opposition party said it would negotiate a new divorce deal with the EU and then offer voters the choice of leaving the 28-nation bloc on those terms or remaining.

But on the whole Labour tried to focus the campaign away from Brexit and onto its radical domestic agenda, vowing to tax the rich, nationalize industries such as railroads and water companies and give everyone in the country free internet access. It campaigned heavily on the future of the National Health Service, a deeply respected institution that has struggled to meet rising demand after nine years of austerity under Conservative-led governments.

Chelsea Pensioners arrive at the polling station to vote in the General Election, in the Chelsea area of London, Thursday, Dec. 12, 2019. Voting is underway across the country in a general election that may resolve the stalemate over Brexit, widely seen as one of the most decisive votes in modern times. (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)
Chelsea Pensioners arrive at the polling station to vote in the General Election, in the Chelsea area of London, Thursday, Dec. 12, 2019. Voting is underway across the country in a general election that may resolve the stalemate over Brexit, widely seen as one of the most decisive votes in modern times. (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)

One of the campaign’s defining images was a photo of a sick 4-year-old boy sleeping on a hospital floor because no beds were available. Johnson’s initial failure to even look at the photo in an on-camera interview put him on the defensive, portraying him as being insensitive to the child’s plight. The photo swept across social media like a firestorm, injecting an explosive jolt into the political war of information in the final days of the campaign.

For many voters, the election offered an unpalatable choice. Both Johnson and Corbyn have personal approval ratings in negative territory, and both have been dogged by questions about their character.

Johnson has been confronted with past broken promises, untruths and offensive statements, from calling the children of single mothers “ignorant, aggressive and illegitimate” to comparing Muslim women who wear face-covering veils to “letter boxes.”

Lights on a Christmas tree next to a polling station in Laggan in the Cairngorms, Scotland, Thursday Dec. 12, 2019. U.K. voters were deciding Thursday who they want to resolve the stalemate over Brexit in a parliamentary election seen as one of the most important since the end of World War II. (Jane Barlow/PA via AP)
Lights on a Christmas tree next to a polling station in Laggan in the Cairngorms, Scotland, Thursday Dec. 12, 2019. U.K. voters were deciding Thursday who they want to resolve the stalemate over Brexit in a parliamentary election seen as one of the most important since the end of World War II. (Jane Barlow/PA via AP)

In Uxbridge, the suburban London seat that Johnson represents in Parliament, Stefan Hay said he was voting for the prime minister despite his flaws.

“At the end of the day, whether you like him or not, with all of his eccentricities, I think he has leadership ability and I think he is the best man for the job, simple as that,” Hay said. “The alternative would be excruciating.”

Corbyn has been accused of allowing anti-Semitism to spread within the party. The 70-year-old left-winger was portrayed by opponents as an aging Marxist with unsavory past associations with Hamas and the IRA.

British opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, centre right and his wife Laura Alvarez leave after voting in the general election in Islington in Islington, London, England, Thursday, Dec. 12, 2019 .U.K. voters are deciding Thursday who they want to resolve the stalemate over Brexit in a parliamentary election widely seen as one of the most decisive in modern times. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)
British opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, centre right and his wife Laura Alvarez leave after voting in the general election in Islington in Islington, London, England, Thursday, Dec. 12, 2019 .U.K. voters are deciding Thursday who they want to resolve the stalemate over Brexit in a parliamentary election widely seen as one of the most decisive in modern times. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

But many voters said they were backing Labour because of its stance on social issues.

“If the Tories win, this country will just fall apart,” said Eleanor Sawbridge Burton, a freelance writer in London. “It will really hit climate change and the NHS. It feels a bit hopeless.”

Associated Press writers Gregory Katz, Sheila Norman-Culp and Jo Kearney in London contributed.

Liberal Democrats Party leader Jo Swinson and her partner Duncan Hames arrive to cast their votes in the general election in Glasgow, Thursday Dec. 12, 2019. U.K. voters are voting Thursday for they want to resolve the stalemate over Brexit, in a parliamentary election widely seen as one of the most decisive in modern times.(Ian Rutherford/PA via AP)
Liberal Democrats Party leader Jo Swinson and her partner Duncan Hames arrive to cast their votes in the general election in Glasgow, Thursday Dec. 12, 2019. U.K. voters are voting Thursday for they want to resolve the stalemate over Brexit, in a parliamentary election widely seen as one of the most decisive in modern times.(Ian Rutherford/PA via AP)
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon casts her vote in Glasgow, Scotland, Thursday, Dec. 12, 2019. U.K. voters are voting Thursday for who they want to resolve the stalemate over Brexit in a parliamentary election widely seen as one of the most decisive in modern times. (AP Photo/Scott Heppell)
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon casts her vote in Glasgow, Scotland, Thursday, Dec. 12, 2019. U.K. voters are voting Thursday for who they want to resolve the stalemate over Brexit in a parliamentary election widely seen as one of the most decisive in modern times. (AP Photo/Scott Heppell)
A polling station signpost lies on the pavement as voters approach a polling station in Twickenham, England, Thursday, Dec. 12, 2019. British voters are deciding who they want to resolve the Brexit conundrum in an election seen as one of the most important since the end of World War II.  (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
A polling station signpost lies on the pavement as voters approach a polling station in Twickenham, England, Thursday, Dec. 12, 2019. British voters are deciding who they want to resolve the Brexit conundrum in an election seen as one of the most important since the end of World War II. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
British opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, gestures after casting his vote in the general election, in Islington, London, England, Thursday, Dec. 12, 2019 .U.K. voters are deciding Thursday who they want to resolve the stalemate over Brexit in a parliamentary election widely seen as one of the most decisive in modern times. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)
British opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, gestures after casting his vote in the general election, in Islington, London, England, Thursday, Dec. 12, 2019 .U.K. voters are deciding Thursday who they want to resolve the stalemate over Brexit in a parliamentary election widely seen as one of the most decisive in modern times. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)
A presiding officer and a clerk drink cups of tea next to heaters to keep warm as they sit inside their polling station at Ace Laundrette in Oxford, England, Thursday, Dec. 12, 2019. Voting is underway across the country in a general election that may resolve the stalemate over Brexit, widely seen as one of the most decisive votes in modern times. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
A presiding officer and a clerk drink cups of tea next to heaters to keep warm as they sit inside their polling station at Ace Laundrette in Oxford, England, Thursday, Dec. 12, 2019. Voting is underway across the country in a general election that may resolve the stalemate over Brexit, widely seen as one of the most decisive votes in modern times. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
Britain is holding a parliamentary election Thursday, with voters deciding who they want to resolve the Brexit stalemate. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Labor Leader Jeremy Corbyn and Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon all voted. (Dec. 12)
Britain is holding a parliamentary election Thursday, with voters deciding who they want to resolve the Brexit stalemate. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Labor Leader Jeremy Corbyn and Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon all voted. (Dec. 12)
A covering of snow in Northumberland, northeast England, Thursday Dec. 12, 2019.  Some districts are predicting a low turnout for today's general election due to winter conditions, after the first snow of the season. (Owen Humphreys/PA via AP)
A covering of snow in Northumberland, northeast England, Thursday Dec. 12, 2019. Some districts are predicting a low turnout for today’s general election due to winter conditions, after the first snow of the season. (Owen Humphreys/PA via AP)
British opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn holds his polling card notification document after casting his vote in the general election, in Islington, London, England, Thursday, Dec. 12, 2019 .U.K. voters are deciding Thursday who they want to resolve the stalemate over Brexit in a parliamentary election widely seen as one of the most decisive in modern times. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)
British opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn holds his polling card notification document after casting his vote in the general election, in Islington, London, England, Thursday, Dec. 12, 2019 .U.K. voters are deciding Thursday who they want to resolve the stalemate over Brexit in a parliamentary election widely seen as one of the most decisive in modern times. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)
Students from the University of Reading arrive to vote in the general election, in Reading, England, Thursday Dec. 12, 2019.  The U.K. is voting Thursday for they want to resolve the stalemate over Brexit, in a parliamentary election widely seen as one of the most decisive in modern times.(Steve Parsons/PA via AP)
Students from the University of Reading arrive to vote in the general election, in Reading, England, Thursday Dec. 12, 2019. The U.K. is voting Thursday for they want to resolve the stalemate over Brexit, in a parliamentary election widely seen as one of the most decisive in modern times.(Steve Parsons/PA via AP)
A presiding officer and a clerk stand with heaters to keep warm inside their polling station at Ace Launderette in Oxford, England, Thursday, Dec. 12, 2019.  Voting is underway across the country in a general election that may resolve the stalemate over Brexit, widely seen as one of the most decisive votes in modern times. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
A presiding officer and a clerk stand with heaters to keep warm inside their polling station at Ace Launderette in Oxford, England, Thursday, Dec. 12, 2019. Voting is underway across the country in a general election that may resolve the stalemate over Brexit, widely seen as one of the most decisive votes in modern times. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
Sinn Fein Deputy leader Michelle O'Neill reflected in a puddle after casting her vote in the General Election at Patrick's Primary School in Clonoe, County Tyrone, Northern Ireland, Thursday, Dec. 12, 2019. U.K. voters were deciding Thursday who they want to resolve the stalemate over Brexit in a parliamentary election seen as one of the most important since the end of World War II. (Niall Carson/PA via AP)
Sinn Fein Deputy leader Michelle O’Neill reflected in a puddle after casting her vote in the General Election at Patrick’s Primary School in Clonoe, County Tyrone, Northern Ireland, Thursday, Dec. 12, 2019. U.K. voters were deciding Thursday who they want to resolve the stalemate over Brexit in a parliamentary election seen as one of the most important since the end of World War II. (Niall Carson/PA via AP)
Chris Johnson, 62, does her knitting while awaiting people to vote at the polling station in Nenthead Village Hall in Cumbria, England Thursday Dec. 12, 2019. U.K. voters were deciding Thursday who they want to resolve the stalemate over Brexit in a parliamentary election seen as one of the most important since the end of World War II. (Owen Humphreys/PA via AP)
Chris Johnson, 62, does her knitting while awaiting people to vote at the polling station in Nenthead Village Hall in Cumbria, England Thursday Dec. 12, 2019. U.K. voters were deciding Thursday who they want to resolve the stalemate over Brexit in a parliamentary election seen as one of the most important since the end of World War II. (Owen Humphreys/PA via AP)
Wensleydale Railway employee Teresa Chapman is pictured with the Polar Express in the background, next to a polling station in a railway carriage as voters go to the polls, in Leeming Bar, North Yorkshire, England, Thursday, Dec. 12, 2019. Britain is holding an early election in wintry December, with a number of strange locations put in use as polling places. Among the places where Britons cast their ballots Tuesday were a car dealership, a laundrette, a Christmas grotto and of course some pubs. There were a few problems, including flooding at one location. (Danny Lawson/PA via AP)
Wensleydale Railway employee Teresa Chapman is pictured with the Polar Express in the background, next to a polling station in a railway carriage as voters go to the polls, in Leeming Bar, North Yorkshire, England, Thursday, Dec. 12, 2019. Britain is holding an early election in wintry December, with a number of strange locations put in use as polling places. Among the places where Britons cast their ballots Tuesday were a car dealership, a laundrette, a Christmas grotto and of course some pubs. There were a few problems, including flooding at one location. (Danny Lawson/PA via AP)