MAIDENHEAD, ENGLAND - JUNE 09:  British Prime Minister and Conservative Party leader Theresa May speaks at the declaration at the election count at the Magnet Leisure Centre on June 9, 2017 in Maidenhead, England. After a snap election was called, the United Kingdom went to the polls yesterday following a closely fought election. The results from across the country are being counted and an overall result is expected in the early hours.  (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)
Matt Cardy/Getty Images Europe/Getty Images
MAIDENHEAD, ENGLAND - JUNE 09: British Prime Minister and Conservative Party leader Theresa May speaks at the declaration at the election count at the Magnet Leisure Centre on June 9, 2017 in Maidenhead, England. After a snap election was called, the United Kingdom went to the polls yesterday following a closely fought election. The results from across the country are being counted and an overall result is expected in the early hours. (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)
Now playing
01:29
Election shock undercuts UK on world stage
LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 09:  Prime Minister Theresa May speaks outside 10 Downing Street after returning from Buckingham Palace on June 9, 2017 in London, England. After a snap election was called by Prime Minister Theresa May the United Kingdom went to the polls yesterday. The closely fought election has failed to return a clear overall majority winner and a hung parliament has been declared.  (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)
Leon Neal/Getty Images
LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 09: Prime Minister Theresa May speaks outside 10 Downing Street after returning from Buckingham Palace on June 9, 2017 in London, England. After a snap election was called by Prime Minister Theresa May the United Kingdom went to the polls yesterday. The closely fought election has failed to return a clear overall majority winner and a hung parliament has been declared. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)
Now playing
01:52
How an extraordinary UK election unfolded
A graph on a trader's screen shows the fall of pound sterling that occurred when the first general election exit poll was released on June 8, 2017, as Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May is seen speaing on a television beyond, on the trading floor of ETX Capital in London on June 9, 2017, the day after Britain held a general election, in which the ruling Conservatives lost their parliamentary majority.
With Brexit talks due to begin in just over a week, Britain's shock election results may soften the government's strategy -- if there is even a government formed to negotiate in Brussels by then. The pound fell sharply amid fears the Conservative leader will be unable to form a government and could even be forced out of office after a troubled campaign overshadowed by two terror attacks. / AFP PHOTO / Glyn KIRK        (Photo credit should read GLYN KIRK/AFP/Getty Images)
GLYN KIRK/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
A graph on a trader's screen shows the fall of pound sterling that occurred when the first general election exit poll was released on June 8, 2017, as Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May is seen speaing on a television beyond, on the trading floor of ETX Capital in London on June 9, 2017, the day after Britain held a general election, in which the ruling Conservatives lost their parliamentary majority. With Brexit talks due to begin in just over a week, Britain's shock election results may soften the government's strategy -- if there is even a government formed to negotiate in Brussels by then. The pound fell sharply amid fears the Conservative leader will be unable to form a government and could even be forced out of office after a troubled campaign overshadowed by two terror attacks. / AFP PHOTO / Glyn KIRK (Photo credit should read GLYN KIRK/AFP/Getty Images)
Now playing
01:20
What the UK election means for the economy
Britain's Prime Minister and leader of the Conservative Party Theresa May delivers a statement outside 10 Downing Street in central London on June 9, 2017 as results from a snap general election show the Conservatives have lost their majority.
British Prime Minister Theresa May faced pressure to resign on June 9 after losing her parliamentary majority, plunging the country into uncertainty as Brexit talks loom. / AFP PHOTO / Justin TALLIS        (Photo credit should read JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP/Getty Images)
JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP/Getty Images
Britain's Prime Minister and leader of the Conservative Party Theresa May delivers a statement outside 10 Downing Street in central London on June 9, 2017 as results from a snap general election show the Conservatives have lost their majority. British Prime Minister Theresa May faced pressure to resign on June 9 after losing her parliamentary majority, plunging the country into uncertainty as Brexit talks loom. / AFP PHOTO / Justin TALLIS (Photo credit should read JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP/Getty Images)
Now playing
02:37
'Let's get back to work': May's full speech
CNNI
Now playing
01:52
Corbyn: Make way for government for the people
uk election theresa may holds seat sot_00003029.jpg
uk election theresa may holds seat sot_00003029.jpg
Now playing
02:15
Theresa May: UK needs a period of stability
British Prime Minister Theresa May leaves 10 Downing Street in central London on April 19, 2017 ahead of the weekly Prime Minister's Questions session in the House of Commons. 

British Prime Minister Theresa May called on April 18 for a snap election on June 8, in a shock move as she seeks to bolster her position before tough talks on leaving the EU. MPs are set to vote on the motion following Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons. / AFP PHOTO / CHRIS J RATCLIFFE        (Photo credit should read CHRIS J RATCLIFFE/AFP/Getty Images)
CHRIS J RATCLIFFE/AFP/Getty Images
British Prime Minister Theresa May leaves 10 Downing Street in central London on April 19, 2017 ahead of the weekly Prime Minister's Questions session in the House of Commons. British Prime Minister Theresa May called on April 18 for a snap election on June 8, in a shock move as she seeks to bolster her position before tough talks on leaving the EU. MPs are set to vote on the motion following Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons. / AFP PHOTO / CHRIS J RATCLIFFE (Photo credit should read CHRIS J RATCLIFFE/AFP/Getty Images)
Now playing
01:14
Theresa May: What you need to know
LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 09:  Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn leaves his home on June 9, 2017 in London, England. After a snap election was called by Prime Minister Theresa May the United Kingdom went to the polls yesterday. The closely fought election has failed to return a clear overall majority winner and a hung parliament has been declared.  (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
Christopher Furlong/Getty Images
LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 09: Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn leaves his home on June 9, 2017 in London, England. After a snap election was called by Prime Minister Theresa May the United Kingdom went to the polls yesterday. The closely fought election has failed to return a clear overall majority winner and a hung parliament has been declared. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
Now playing
01:16
What to know about Jeremy Corbyn
ITN
Now playing
01:38
Nigel Farage: Theresa May is toast
Labour Party Deputy Leader Tom Watson delivers a victory speech praising his party's message.
ITN
Labour Party Deputy Leader Tom Watson delivers a victory speech praising his party's message.
Now playing
00:50
Labour Party leader: Theresa May a damaged PM
uk election boris johnson listen to constituents sot_00012618.jpg
ITN
uk election boris johnson listen to constituents sot_00012618.jpg
Now playing
01:56
Boris Johnson: Listen to our constituents
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - SEPTEMBER 13: Bank of England governor Mark Carney poses with a new polymer five pound note at Whitecross Street Market on September 13, 2016 in London, United Kingdom. The new plastic note is designed to be more durable and features a portrait of former British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill.   (Photo by Stefan Wermuth - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
WPA Pool/Getty Images Europe/Getty Images
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - SEPTEMBER 13: Bank of England governor Mark Carney poses with a new polymer five pound note at Whitecross Street Market on September 13, 2016 in London, United Kingdom. The new plastic note is designed to be more durable and features a portrait of former British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill. (Photo by Stefan Wermuth - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
Now playing
01:46
UK election polls shock markets
A Union flag flies near the The Elizabeth Tower, commonly known Big Ben, and the Houses of Parliament in London on February 1, 2017.
British MPs are expected Wednesday to approve the first stage of a bill empowering Prime Minister Theresa May to start pulling Britain out of the European Union. Ahead of the vote, which was scheduled to take place at 7:00 pm (1900 GMT), MPs were debating the legislation which would allow the government to trigger Article 50 of the EU's Lisbon Treaty, formally beginning two years of exit negotiations. / AFP / Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS        (Photo credit should read DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images)
DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
A Union flag flies near the The Elizabeth Tower, commonly known Big Ben, and the Houses of Parliament in London on February 1, 2017. British MPs are expected Wednesday to approve the first stage of a bill empowering Prime Minister Theresa May to start pulling Britain out of the European Union. Ahead of the vote, which was scheduled to take place at 7:00 pm (1900 GMT), MPs were debating the legislation which would allow the government to trigger Article 50 of the EU's Lisbon Treaty, formally beginning two years of exit negotiations. / AFP / Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS (Photo credit should read DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images)
Now playing
02:38
The year that rocked British politics
Britain's main opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn waves as he arrives to address supporters at a campaign visit in Colwyn Bay, north Wales on June 7, 2017, on the eve of the general election.
Britain on Wednesday headed into the final day of campaigning for a general election darkened and dominated by jihadist attacks in two cities, leaving forecasters struggling to predict an outcome on polling day. / AFP PHOTO / Oli SCARFF        (Photo credit should read OLI SCARFF/AFP/Getty Images)
OLI SCARFF/AFP/Getty Images
Britain's main opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn waves as he arrives to address supporters at a campaign visit in Colwyn Bay, north Wales on June 7, 2017, on the eve of the general election. Britain on Wednesday headed into the final day of campaigning for a general election darkened and dominated by jihadist attacks in two cities, leaving forecasters struggling to predict an outcome on polling day. / AFP PHOTO / Oli SCARFF (Photo credit should read OLI SCARFF/AFP/Getty Images)
Now playing
02:56
Jeremy Corbyn: The face of UK's Labour party
(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
OLIVIER HOSLET/EPA
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.
GEOFF CADDICK/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
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 the mantra “strong and stable” throughout the campaign and the result has ended up in huge uncertainty, instability and a falling pound. It is possible there will be a challenge to her leadership as soon as Friday or over the weekend, with Brexit supporting MPs like Boris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary, and David Davis, the Brexit Secretary, tipped as potential challengers.

Labour’s success

While it’s important to remember Labour have not won this election, or even ended up as the largest party, the party’s achievement is considerable. There is more than Brexit at play, however. A month ago, Labour had one of its worst ever performances in the local elections, pointing to disaster for Corbyn in Thursday’s general election. But since those local elections, the Labour and Conservative manifestoes changed everything.

Corbyn’s manifesto was an array of left-wing populist policies: higher taxes, but more money for the NHS, schools and university students, renationalization of some key industries. The polls suggested voters liked what they saw.

The Conservative manifesto, by contrast, marked a turning point: it included a shake up in funding for elderly care, which opponents branded a “dementia tax”, a label which stuck and May had to hastily announce tweaks to the policy in the face of a backlash.

Two terrorist attacks, in Manchester on May 23 and in London on June 3, provoked a debate about national security. This should have benefited May, a former Home Secretary who was tough on law and order, and damaged Corbyn, who has voiced support in the past for the IRA and Hamas. Yet May faced accusations of cuts to police officers during her time as Home Secretary and Corbyn’s rating did not seem to suffer on this issue.

Youth vote

Another factor that was crucial in Labour’s surge was the youth vote. At the local elections, young people were less likely to turn out and voting among this age group is generally lower in elections than older voters.

On Thursday, there were signs that the 18-24 age group had turned up to back Corbyn: including in university areas like Sheffield Hallam, where former deputy prime minister Nick Clegg, a Liberal Democrat lost his seat to Labour.

Britain's main opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn is pictured at a polling station to cast his vote.
JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP/Getty Images
Britain's main opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn is pictured at a polling station to cast his vote.

There was more exposure to the voters of Corbyn, through TV debates, which will have boosted the Labour leader. There will be comparisons to Donald Trump, with Corbyn an anti-establishment outsider with a populist agenda – albeit from a left-wing platform.

The losses for the Conservatives would have been worse were it not for an extraordinary surge for May’s party in Scotland, where the Scottish National Party, who were dominant in 2015, winning 56 seats out of 59, saw seats fall.

Across the country, all of the smaller parties have been squeezed because of a return to two-party politics, where the overall battle is between the Conservatives and Labour. What looked like a landslide in April started to look shaky through May and has now evaporated in June.