Britons voted on Thursday on whether to stay in the European Union in a referendum that could change the face of Europe and is being nervously watched by financial markets and politicians across the world.
A British exit, or Brexit, would deprive the 28-member EU of its second-biggest economy and one of its two main military powers, sending political shockwaves across the continent.
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As the vote counting began, reports of polling one by one of the 382 counting areas started flowing in. After last opinion polls showed ‘Remain’ ahead of ‘Leave’, markets immediately reacted as pound rallied.
However, with the initial results favouring the Leave camp, the tide soon turned.
Follow live updates from each of the counting areas here:
- Gauging the poll opinion pointer towards Remain camp, Conservative lawmakers urge UK Prime Minister David Cameron to stay.
- After scathing attacks over the alleged failure to curb migration problem of UK, Cameron had agreed to go out of office if the referendum weighed the Leave camp more.
“There are good ways of controlling immigration ... but pulling out of the single market, wrecking our economy, that is a bad way,” Cameron had earlier told ITV’s “Lorraine” programme.
Most final polls and surveys including YouGov, Ipsos-Mori put ‘Remain’ ahead of ‘Leave’ as polls close.
Ispos-Mori poll shows 54% ‘Remain’, 46% ‘Leave’, says chief executive Ben Page
#EUref: On how party supporters voted (Remain/Leave):— Britain Elects (@britainelects) June 23, 2016
YouGov survey puts Remain ahead 52/48
Reports that the “remain” side could be headed to victory in Britain’s referendum on European Union membership have sent the British pound surging more than 1% to $1.50.
British Electoral Commission chair Jenny Watson says the first stages of the vote counting process are now underway in Britain’s referendum on membership in the European Union.
Polling station workers were seen rushing ballot boxes to be counted.
- Voting for #BrexitOrNot ends
- Final opinion poll points to UK staying in EU, though all the polls and surveys have said it could be a tough call.
52/48 would be a poor result as the EU issue would not be put to bed. #BREXIT— Rotten Borough (@AllSeeingGuy) June 23, 2016
- UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage tells Sky news “It’s been an extraordinary referendum campaign, turnout looks to be exceptionally high and looks like Remain will edge it.”
Last hour before voting closes:
- As the voting is to close 3.00 am IST , anxiety started filling in the minds of Britons who had sealed their decision for UK’s way in or out of the European Union, in the ballot boxes.
Waiting for the Brexit Exit Polls— Jonathan Atkinson (@lowwintersun) June 23, 2016
Surely a voting system where every vote actually counts is the way forward?? Possibly the best thing to come out of #EURef— Sam Hewlett-Lloyd (@samrock86) June 23, 2016
Both the camps in the EU Referendum went all guns blazing in the final hour of the voting, urging supporters to get out and vote.
Britain Stronger in Europe tweeted that people should vote to remain for “a brighter future for your children and generations to come.”
Vote Leave chief executive Matthew Elliott urged people in the “heartlands” outside London and Scotland — expected to be big “remain” strongholds — to make an extra effort.
Former London Mayor Boris Johnson, who leads the “Leave” campaign, said polls suggested the outcome would be close. But he says “all the information is that turnout is good in areas where we need it to be.”
Meanwhile, the presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump flies to UK for a private business engagement. As the West braces for Brexit referendum which may be seen as the biggest change in recent Europe, Trump is to travel to Scotland to promote a golf course his company purchased on the country’s southwestern coast.
He has planned two days in Scotland, with no meetings with government or political leaders scheduled.
The final poll conducted before polls opened was by Populus for the Financial Times. The survey of 4,700 people was conducted right up to midnight on Wednesday night, and put Remain on 55%.
Some polling stations ordered to remove England flags after voters complained they could sway people in favour of Brexit, reported MailOnline.
After many In supporters complained, watchdogs asked the centres to take down the flags. Though this technically didn’t breach any laws, but Electoral Commission directed polling stations to make the walls and poles clear to avoid any confrontation, the report said.
Oil prices in US closed 2% higher after a volatile session on Thursday ahead of the Brexit vote. The Brent crude settled up $1.03, or 2.1%, at $50.91 a barrel.
Rains across some parts of London and the south-east overnight and early in the morning on Thursday. The determined voters, however, were not deterred.
- The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 165.02 points, or 0.93%, at 17,945.85.
- The latest, an Ipsos MORI survey for the London Evening Standard newspaper, put “Remain” on 52% and “Leave” on 48%.
The pound surged in morning deals to $1.4947 -- its highest level since December 28.
- London’s main stock index closed at 1.23% firmer at 6,338.1 as investors bet on Britain voting to remain in the EU in a key referendum. The referendum results are expected before the market reopens on Friday.
- Oil prices rise by up to 2%, after the last pre-vote opinion polls raised expectations that Britain will stay in the European Union.
- Some of the last opinion polls published late on Wednesday showed the “Remain” campaign ahead, propelling sterling to a 2016 high against the dollar, while Britain’s top share index hit a two-month high.
-If Britain votes to remain in the EU, the oil market is likely to switch its focus to fundamentals, returning its attention to the supply and demand picture.
- Heavy rains in southeast England flooded streets, disrupted travel and closed two polling stations on Thursday.
Britain’s Met office said further showers and thunderstorms were expected in London and the southeast on Thursday afternoon and evening, and the Environment Agency issued flood warnings.
- German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she hopes Britons vote on Thursday to remain in the European Union.
Merkel said she favoured all members of the EU meeting after the so-called ‘Brexit’ vote to discuss the bloc’s future, rather than just the six founding members, or the euro zone members.
“Of course we hope for a decision in which the citizens of Great Britain remain part of the European Union,” Merkel said.
- Danish daily Berlingske published an English-language editorial imploring Britain to “please stay” in the EU, amid fears the eurosceptic Scandinavian country could lose a key ally in Brussels.
“As a nation, we in Denmark understand your scepticism about the EU, perhaps better than any other country. Three times we voted no -- in 1992, 2000 and 2015 -- but never out,” the right-wing daily wrote.
“Let us stay and fight for pragmatic, better and more sustainable European solutions,” it said, adding that Britain’s voice was needed in the EU to “fight for free trade and (for) breaking down regulation and bureaucracy.”
- Southern European bond yields fell sharply on Thursday, joining a rally in other risk assets and the British pound as latest polls showed a tilt towards those in favour of keeping Britain in the European Union.
Four polls published over the last 24 hours suggest Britons will vote to stay in the EU at Thursday’s referendum and bookmakers’ odds, closely followed by financial markets, show an 86 percent chance of a “remain” vote.
- Chelsea pensioners leave a polling station near to the Royal Chelsea Hospital in London.
- In sunny Glasgow, many voters said they wanted Britain to stay in the European Union on Thursday but were well aware that an overall Brexit result could lead to Scottish independence.
“Being in the EU is an advantage for Scotland. It would be silly to leave,” said Gemma Rosaria, a 24-year-old office worker, arriving to vote in the EU referendum in the Broomhouse area of east Glasgow, Scotland’s biggest city.
“I don’t want a Brexit but if there’s a Brexit that could be an advantage for Scotland because we can have a new referendum,” said Rosaria, adding that she had voted for independence in 2014.
- According to MarketWatch, an Ipsos Mori poll conducted for the Evening Standard showed 52% of the respondents in the ‘Remain’ camp compared with 48% supporting the ‘Leave’ camp.
- Support for remaining in the European Union stood at 55%, with 45% supporting a Brexit, according to an online Populus poll released on Twitter on Thursday while voting was under way in Britain’s referendum.
Populus said the survey of 4,700 was carried out on Tuesday and up to midnight on Wednesday night.
- Gibraltar’s Chief Minister Fabian Picardo (L) and his wife Justine Olivero prepare their ballots before casting their votes.
- Betfair, world’s largest Internet betting exchange, says momentum has moved to the “remain” camp in a referendum on whether or not Britain will remain in the European Union.
The betting market says the probability that the country will remain now stands at 86%, with a British exit or Brexit given just a 14% chance. Betfair says some 55 million pounds ($80 million) has now traded on the market, making it their biggest market to date. Their previous high was the 2012 US presidential election at 40 million pounds.
Brexit referendum, last three polls.— The Int'l Spectator (@intlspectator) June 23, 2016
Opinium: Leave ahead 1%
YouGov: Tied at 45%
ComRes: Remain ahead 6% pic.twitter.com/hqgiCtXepT
- Gibraltar’s Chief Minister Fabian Picardo casts his vote next to his wife Justine Olivero (R) during the EU referendum at a polling station in the British overseas territory of Gibraltar, historically claimed by Spain, on June 23, 2016.
- The campaign to keep Britain in the European Union has a narrow lead, according to a new opinion poll released on Thursday.
The Ipsos MORI poll for the Evening Standard newspaper put “Remain” on 52 percent and “Leave” on 48 percent, sending the pound soaring against the dollar.
- Russian Economy Minister Alexei Ulyukayev said on Thursday he does not expect sharp changes in the rouble rate and oil prices if Britain leaves the European Union.
“I believe that markets - in their volatility seen lately -have in general already taken all risks into account,” he said.
- Nigel Farage, the leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), leaves after voting in the EU referendum at a polling station in Biggin Hill in Britain.
- Germany’s top-selling newspaper Bild made a last-ditch plea for Britons to stay in the EU Thursday, promising to finally concede England’s long-disputed 1966 Wembley World Cup goal if they vote “Remain”.
Bild also said it would “no longer make any jokes about Prince Charles’ ears”, “stop using suncream out of solidarity with your sunburn,” and “not field a goalkeeper for the next penalties, to make it more exciting” -- if Britain keeps its faith with the European Union.
The goal was one of the most controversial in World Cup history. In the 1966 final between England and West Germany, both sides were tied at 2-2 when England striker Geoff Hurst fired a shot in extra time. The ball hit the underside of the crossbar and bounced off the ground before being cleared by West German defenders, and the referee was uncertain if it had crossed the goal-line.
- The British pound and stock markets are rallying in morning trading in Europe, an indication that investors are betting that Britain is more likely to vote to “remain” in the European Union.
- South Korea’s Finance Minister Yoo Il-ho ordered aggressive responses if needed against any increased market volatility in the wake of the Brexit referendum vote. Yoo also said in a meeting with his top officials on Thursday that even if Britain does decide to quit the European Union, South Korea would see a limited impact from the decision.
- Betting odds for the EU referendum result are displayed in a betting shop at Westminster in London.
- Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, casts her vote at Glasgow in Scotland.
- Despite torrential rains in London and south east England, voters headed to polling station to cast their ballots. Torrential rains swamped London and flood warnings were issued for parts of the British capital and Essex.
- David and Samantha Cameron have cast their EU referendum votes at a polling station near Downing Street in London.
- It is only the third nationwide referendum in UK history and comes after a four-month battle for votes between the “Leave” and “Remain” campaigns.
- Pictures of people voting as the polls open.
- Voting starts in Britain’s EU membership referendum.
Opinion polls have suggested that while big business is broadly in favour of staying in the EU, small firms have been evenly split in what looks like a photo-finish with one poll showing “Remain” at 45% and “Leave” 44%, with 11% undecided.
Britons! Vote. pic.twitter.com/eopjl4ZH1L— Britain Elects (@britainelects) June 23, 2016
Britain would be economically (X) if we left the EU:— Britain Elects (@britainelects) June 23, 2016
Better off: 23%
Worse off: 40%
No different: 22%
Britain would have (X) influence in the world if we left the EU:— Britain Elects (@britainelects) June 23, 2016
No different: 34%
It would be (X) for jobs if Britain left the EU:— Britain Elects (@britainelects) June 23, 2016
No different: 27%
Britain would be (X) at risk from terrorism if we left the EU:— Britain Elects (@britainelects) June 23, 2016
No different: 51%
House prices would be (X) if Britain left the EU than stayed:— Britain Elects (@britainelects) June 23, 2016
No different: 45%
There would be (X) immigration into Britain if we left the EU:— Britain Elects (@britainelects) June 23, 2016
No different: 33%
It would be (X) for pensions if Britain left the EU:— Britain Elects (@britainelects) June 23, 2016
No different: 40%
You personally would be financially (X) if Britain left the EU:— Britain Elects (@britainelects) June 23, 2016
Better off: 10%
Worse off: 29%
No different: 44%
Here is some key information about the vote, from the question on the ballot paper to when the results are likely to start coming in.
What is the question?
Voters will be presented with one question: “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?”
They will have two possible answers: “Remain a member of the European Union” or “Leave the European Union”.
In Wales, the ballot paper will be in English and Welsh.
Who can vote?
British, Irish and Commonwealth citizens over the age of 18 who live in Britain, as well as citizens of Gibraltar, are all eligible to vote provided they have registered.
That means that Cypriots and Maltese living in Britain can vote since their countries are members of the Commonwealth, as well as the European Union.
British nationals who have lived abroad for less than 15 years can also vote. A legal challenge to give a vote to expatriates who have been away longer failed last month.
There are a total of 46,499,537 registered voters, according to the latest figures from the Electoral Commission. This is more than in last year’s general election when 46,354,197 people were registered.
Watch: Brexit explainer
When are the results expected?
Voting booths across Britain will open at 7 am (0600 GMT) and close at 10 pm (2100 GMT) on Thursday. Results will start trickling in from late on Thursday night, with the final picture emerging on Friday morning.
There are no official exit polls because polling experts say the lack of recent comparable votes in Britain could make the results less reliable.
Results from polling will, however, be released after the ballots close.
Some hedge funds and banks have also reportedly commissioned private exit polls that would allow them to make trades based on their forecasts even while voting is still going on.
There are 382 local counting areas, including Gibraltar, which will all declare their results independently throughout the night.
The first two, Sunderland in northeast England and Wandsworth in London, are expected to declare at about 12:30 am (2330 GMT).
The first big wave of results is expected after 2:00 am (0100 GMT) Friday and another wave a couple of hours afterwards.
Turnout is likely to be announced earlier, which may give an indication of the result to come, with a high turnout expected to favour the “Remain” camp.
The formal result will not be confirmed by the chief counting officer until all local areas, collated into 12 regional tallies, are declared.
The final national result will be announced in Manchester Town Hall in northern England.
With inputs from AFP, AP, Reuters