Theresa May faces ousting after UK election shock

British Prime Minister Theresa May says she'll be backed by a small Northern Irish party and is able to form a minority government after she lost an election gamble days before launching Brexit talks.

Ms May called the snap election confident of increasing her Conservative Party's majority to strengthen her hand in the Brexit talks, only to lose her majority in Thursday's election.

She now risks more opposition to her Brexit plans from inside and outside her party.

Some colleagues may be lining up to replace her, although a party source said the post was seen as too much of a poisoned chalice for the time-being.

A visibly exhausted Ms May said she obviously "wanted a different result" in Thursday's vote but and that she is "sorry for all those colleagues who lost their seats who didn't deserve to lose".

Just after noon on Friday, Ms May was driven the short distance from Downing Street to Buckingham Palace to ask Queen Elizabeth for permission to form a government - a formality under the British system.

"As we're the party that won the most seats and most votes we are the only party in a position to form a government," Ms May said.

Her office said later that the key finance, foreign, Brexit, interior and defence ministers would remain unchanged.

The socially conservative pro-Brexit Democratic Unionist Party's 10 seats are enough to give Ms May's Conservatives a fragile but workable partnership.

"We will continue to work with our friends and allies in the Democratic Unionist Party in particular," Ms May said, while DUP remained non-committal, only saying it would enter talks.

With 649 of 650 seats declared, the Conservatives had won 318 seats. A surprise resurgence by the Labour Party gave the main opposition party 261 seats, followed by the pro-independence Scottish National Party on 34.

EU leaders expressed fears the shock poll would delay Brexit talks, due to begin on June 19.

"Do your best to avoid a 'no deal' as result of 'no negotiations'," Donald Tusk, leader of the EU's ruling council, wrote in a tweet.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, once written off by his opponents as a no-hoper, said Ms May should step down and that he wanted to form a minority government.

Mr Corbyn would be unlikely to win backing for a minority government, but was clearly revelling in a storming performance.

With the complex talks on the divorce from the EU due to start in 10 days, it was unclear what their direction would now be and if the so-called "Hard Brexit" taking Britain out of a single market could still be pursued.

Conservative MP Anna Soubry was the first in the party to disavow Ms May in public, calling on the Prime Minister to "consider her position".

Late in the campaign, Britain was hit by two terror attacks that killed 30 people in Manchester and London, temporarily shifting the focus onto security issues.

That did not help Ms May, who had overseen cuts in police numbers during six years in her previous job as Interior Minister.