Britain began voting this morning on whether to remain a member of the European Union or split from the 28-nation bloc, a once-in-a-generation decision that will determine the U.K.’s future economic prosperity and the course of the EU. Polling stations opened at 7 a.m. and will close at 10 p.m. London time. The first results are expected around midnight from Gibraltar and the Isles of Scilly, with the cities of Sunderland and Newcastle following about half an hour later. The final results are due about 7 a.m. tomorrow morning. The referendum is the culmination of one of the most divisive campaigns of modern British history, with both sides accusing each other of lying to the electorate. The contest pitted Prime Minister David Cameron’s warnings of the economic and financial risks attached to quitting the EU against calls by the “Leave” side of former London Mayor Boris Johnson to unshackle Britain from the constraints of Brussels. In his final campaign event, late last night at the University of Birmingham, the prime minister urged undecided voters to “put jobs first, put the economy first, put your children’s future first, put our future first as a country.” Johnson said leaving the EU would be a “turning point in the story of our country” in an interview with the Telegraph newspaper published on Thursday.
Polling has suggested the vote is finely balanced between the two camps, even as financial markets and betting odds (which are now pricing a 92% of a remain) indicate “Remain” is on course to win. Torrential rain fell in parts of southern and eastern England, causing flooding and disrupting transport services in London and surrounding areas. A polling station in the London borough of Dagenham was relocated, the council said on its website. Analysts are divided on how overall turnout will affect the referendum result. This morning’s final polls have shown Remain to be firmly ahead.
The outcome is being watched around the world after warnings by the U.K. Treasury, the International Monetary Fund and others that a Brexit risked jobs, incomes, a plunge in the pound and damage to the U.K. economy. That’s a prospect that threatens to roil global markets and buttress anti-establishment movements in other EU member states. “It’s a British decision, but with potentially spectacular consequences for the rest of Europe,” Steven Fielding, a professor of political history at the University of Nottingham, said in a phone interview. A record number of Britons, 46.5 million, have registered to vote, according to the Electoral Commission, suggesting that turnout across the U.K. will be high. All the same, polling analysts disagree on the impact of turnout on the referendum outcome. “It has boiled down to jobs versus foreigners,” said Justin Fisher, professor of politics at Brunel University in northwest London. The referendum will determine whether “the economy will win out over immigration.”
When the campaign began, “Remain” led in most polls, but the gap narrowed as the vote drew nearer, until a slew of polls last week gave “Leave” the lead. The dynamic changed after the killing one week ago of pro-EU Labour lawmaker Jo Cox. Despite his assertion that he’ll stay on as prime minister, Cameron may struggle to retain control of his Conservative Party in the event of a vote to leave. Some lawmakers have already written letters demanding his resignation, and if 15 percent of the parliamentary party do so, it’ll trigger a leadership vote. “I can’t imagine how he could stay” in the event of a vote to leave, Anthony Wells, director of political and social polling at YouGov Plc, said in a phone interview.
Latest Polls as of June 22th
|Source||Brexit (%)||Bremain (%)|