With the Electoral Commission confirming a record 46 million citizens have registered to vote, Britain has gone to the polls today at 0700 BST, making a historic decision on whether Britain will remain in or leave the EU.
Latest referendum polls now show a slight lead for Remain, with the poll of polls compiled by What UK Thinks, which we have used as our base line throughout our referendum tracking, showing a 52%:48% split.
On the betting exchanges, the movement of odds indicates a strengthening view that Remain will win at 1/9 on compared with 6/1 against a Leave victory.
In morning trading, sterling has continued to strengthen against a basket of currencies to a 2016 high, with the benchmark FTSE 100 stock index rising above 6,300 (it has gained £105bn in value over the last 5 days) – both indicators suggesting financial markets are encouraged, at this point in the day, of a remain outcome. Trading volumes are, however, very light with enormous potential for volatility during the day.
Votes will be cast across the 382 local counting areas. As this is a one-off, unique vote, there will be no form of exit poll, which relies on comparative benchmark data to provide an accurate read through.
London, Scotland and major cities in England have shown a strong lead for Remain while much of the rest of England is to pro-Leave, illustrating some quite distinct regional variations in view.
With every vote counting equally, a key feature for both campaigns will be to get their supporters out and for them to vote. Overnight the South East of England was hit by a major storm with localised flooding and travel disruption. We shall see how this affects turnout over the rest of the day.
With voting centres closing at 10pm, it is expected that the first results will be known by midnight and the overall outcome called between 0700-0800 BST on Friday June 24.
Campaigning recommenced on Sunday, following a three day hiatus after the tragic murder of Labour MP, Jo Cox. As you might expect, there has been little new in terms of the core campaign themes with both camps reaffirming key ‘calls to action’. Vote Leave has consistently repeated a strong message of ‘take back control’ and an emotional call to ‘believe in Britain’. The Remain campaign has continued to hammer at the risks to the economy and the consequences for the well-being of the country.
By breakfast time tomorrow in the UK, we should know the outcome.
Latest update as UK markets close….
As EU Referendum voting continues, it has been a relatively positive day for currency and equity markets in the UK. Morning trading sessions reflected a rising confidence that the UK may vote to remain in the EU, responding to a variety of data – particularly the final polls from Populus and Ipsos Mori. Carried out this morning before voting began, they gave Remain a 10 point and 4 point lead respectively.
After a strong start, sterling reached a 2016 high of $1.4946 against the dollar, eventually losing some ground, it ended up 0.8% against the US currency. The FTSE 100 benchmark index began the day with strong gains, up over the 6,300 threshold with the index closing up 1.23% at 6,338. European stock markets were similarly buoyed, France’s CAC closing two per cent higher and the German Dax rising by 1.9 per cent.
A basket of UK banks viewed as the most vulnerable from a vote to leave the EU given their reliance on Eurozone markets – outperformed today. Barclays rose by 2.4 per cent, Royal Bank of Scotland rose by 2.3 per cent and Lloyds has risen by 1.3 per cent.
Betting markets have also shown strengthening sentiment around a positive outcome for remain, with odds shortening to around 1/6 to Remain and drifting to around 4/1 for a Leave result.
Of course, all these indicators are just that – indications. They are in no way reflective of what is actually happening in polling stations up and down the country.
With a little over three hours to go, the outcome of the vote remains finely poised with turnout a major factor. A number of polling stations had to close with long queues forming at others after heavy downpours hit London. There are currently 22 flood alerts across the southeast, with parts of the region experiencing a month’s worth of rainfall in only a few hours. Pollsters have claimed that a low turnout will favour the Leave camp, with Brexiteers more determined to vote.
Current expectations are for the first of the local results to be announced around 12.30am, with Sunderland in the North East set to return their votes first. At around 03.00am it is expected that over a third of the results will be announced, a critical time to assess the outcome.
At around 07.30am, the chief counting officer will collate the 12 regional totals and will declare the referendum result in Manchester.
We are in for a very interesting night.