London CNN  — 

It was supposed to be the Brexit Election. When Theresa May announced back in April she was calling a risky snap election, three years before it was necessary, she invited British voters to increase her Conservative government’s majority and give her the strengthened mandate she needed to go into Brexit talks and get a good deal for the country.

It was a battle between what she defined her “strong and stable” leadership and a “coalition of chaos” under her opponent, the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

In the end, it was the Brexit Election – just not in the way everyone predicted. Having pledged to be the strong Prime Minister fighting for Britain in the negotiating room in Brussels, May appears to have lost her majority because of voters rejected the type of Brexit she had proposed.

May had set out a plan for a “hard Brexit”, with Britain severing almost all ties with the European Union. Instead, voters preferred the “softer Brexit” proposed by Labour under Jeremy Corbyn, or the “no Brexit” line touted by the Liberal Democrats, still fighting the cause for Remain.

With most results in, Labour has picked up the support of two crucial groups of voters: Leave supporters in the north of England who at the 2015 election had backed the anti-EU party Ukip, and Remain voters in the south of England who switched from both Conservatives apparently in protest at Brexit.

Brexit talks delayed?

The result means Brexit talks are now in danger of being delayed. Formal negotiations are set to start in just 10 days, on June 19. But with uncertainty about who the Prime Minister will be over the next few days, it is possible that the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, will announce a delay.

This is likely to cause further uncertainty to sterling markets, after an initial fall in the pound late on Thursday when the exit poll suggesting a hung parliament was first released.

If coalition talks are not resolved within days, this looks like a likely option. If the election is a stalemate and no one can form a majority government, it is possible there will be another general election in the fall.

EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier may need to delay Brexit talks

Disaster for May

The result is a personal disaster for May, who staked her authority on the election and looks to have thrown away the first Conservative majority for 18 years after just two years. It looks like she can only remain in power by relying on the support of the Northern Ireland DUP, the UUP or both. Conservative MPs, furious at being forced into an early and unnecessary campaign for nothing, will start demanding she steps down.

British Prime Minister Theresa May, left, arrives with her husband Philip  at the count centre in Maidenhead.

May looked shattered when she appeared at the declaration of her own constituency result in Maidenhead just after 3am. “At this time more than anything else, this country needs a period of stability,” she said, her voice faltering, suggesting she intends to cling on.

But Conservative MPs will find this statement extraordinary given she repeated t