BREXIT watch. Odds are on remain


The “remain” side has scored only a narrow victory in the large northern English city of Newcastle.

Official figures show that 50.7 per cent of voters in Newcastle backed U.K. membership in the European Union and 49.3 per cent wanted to leave.

The odds of a “remain” victory fell from almost 90 per cent to 72 per cent on the Betfair exchange, and the pound — which had soared after polls suggested a “remain” victory — fell by 1.5 cents against the dollar to $1.4830.

University of Strathclyde political scientist John Curtice told the BBC “it may be possible that the experts are going to have egg on their face later on tonight. It may be the first sign that the ‘remain’ side are not going to do as well as those early polls suggested.”


12:05 a.m. Friday

The vote counting in the northern England area of Leeds and neighbouring Kirklees was briefly abandoned for a minute’s silence in honour of lawmaker Jo Cox, who was stabbed and shot to death in the run-up to the referendum.

The killing of Cox, a parliamentarian with Britain’s opposition Labour Party, shocked the country and prompted both the “remain” and the “leave” camps to suspend their campaigning.

Television footage showed ballot papers being set aside as counters stood up and bowed their heads late Thursday before resuming their work. Cox’s death has loomed large over the vote, darkening the tone of an already fiercely fought campaign.


11:50 p.m.

UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage says “the euroskeptic genie is now out of the bottle and it will not be put back.”

Farage appeared to walk back on his apparent concession after the British polls closed Thursday night on the EU referendum, telling reporters in London that “maybe just under half, maybe just over half of the country” had voted to pull Britain out of the EU.

Still, he struck a downbeat note, saying the government’s decision to extend the voter registration deadline before the vote had probably tipped the scales in the “remain” camp’s favour.

His comments already seemed to look past Thursday’s vote to further fights ahead.

Farage says “win or lose this battle tonight, we will win this war.” He says “we will get our independence back. We will get our country back. We will get our borders back.”


11:45 p.m.

Gibraltar, the first British territory to announce its EU referendum result, says an overwhelming 95.8 per cent of its voters have backed remaining in the bloc.

Gibraltar’s leader, Chief Minister Fabian Picardo, says a lopsided pro-EU vote was always expected because of the British overseas territory’s dependence on maintaining easy cross-border travel and trade with neighbouring EU member Spain.

The strategic spot overlooking the western entrance to the Mediterranean was seized by Britain in 1704. Today the territory, barely 3 square miles (7 square kilometres) in size, is home to more than 30,000 British citizens.

Gibraltar electoral officials say of the 20,172 people who voted, 19,322 chose to remain in the EU.

11:30 p.m.

Pollster Ipsos MORI says a survey conducted on Wednesday and Thursday suggests the “remain” side will win Britain’s EU referendum by a margin of 54 per cent to 46 per cent.

Earlier Thursday, the firm released a poll conducted Wednesday that indicated a 52-48 victory for “remain.” That phone poll of 1,592 people had a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points.

The firm’s chief executive, Ben Page, said continued polling on Thursday — referendum day — suggested a bigger swing to “remain” that gave the 54-46 result.

Britons were voting on whether or not to leave the 28-nation European Union.


11:25 p.m.

Early reports suggest a very high turnout in Britain’s EU referendum.

The first area to officially declare its turnout was Gibraltar, a British enclave at the southern tip of Spain that is expected to heavily back a “remain” vote. There, almost 84 per cent of eligible voters turned out to cast ballots.

Local counting officers in several areas say turnout was higher than in last year’s general election, which was 66 per cent.

High turnout is expected to boost the “remain” vote, because “leave” supporters are thought to be more motivated. But high turnout in working-class areas that typically have lower tallies could also boost the “leave” vote.

The last time Britain had a referendum on its EU membership, in 1975, turnout was 65 per cent.


10:45 p.m.

Dozens of Conservative lawmakers who called for Britain to leave the European Union have signed a letter saying Prime Minister David Cameron should stay in office whichever side wins the membership referendum.

The letter signed by 84 legislators says “whatever the British people, decide you have both a mandate and a duty to continue leading the nation implementing our policies.”

That leaves more than 60 Brexit-supporting Tory lawmakers who did not sign.

The referendum on the EU has deeply split Cameron’s Conservative party. Cameron led the “remain” campaign, but senior figures including Justice Secretary Michael Gove and former London Mayor Boris Johnson backed a “leave” vote.

Many observers feel Cameron will have to resign if Britons vote to leave the 28-nation bloc.


10:30 p.m.

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 per cent to $1.50.

Polling station workers in Britain were seen rushing ballot boxes to be counted after the polls closed at 10 p.m. Thursday. Results are expected Friday morning.


10 p.m.

Polls have closed in Britain’s historic referendum to decide whether the country remains in the European Union.

The voting Thursday was hampered by torrential rain and some flooding in London and parts of southeast England.

Counting will begin immediately with results expected Friday morning. Final polls suggested a close race.

Prime Minister David Cameron led the campaign to keep Britain inside the 28-nation bloc. He argued that participation strengthens Britain’s economy and security.

Former London Mayor Boris Johnson and others on the “leave” side said Britain would be stronger and wealthier on its own.

The divisive campaign saw heated rhetoric on both sides and split the ranks of Cameron’s Conservative Party.


9:30 p.m.

Both sides in Britain’s referendum campaign are urging supporters to get out and vote, with less than an hour to go until polls close.

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.”

Polls close at 10 p.m. (2100GMT).


5:35 p.m.

Rain and thunderstorms are causing cancelled trains and slow journeys in the London area as people travel home from work.

Southeast England was hammered by up to 1.75 inches (4.6 centimetres) of rain overnight — roughly the average for all of June — and another band of rain swept through on Thursday afternoon.

Signal failures caused by flooding shut down sections of the London Underground subway system and several train lines into the capital. The Rail Delivery Group says train services will be severely disrupted Thursday evening and people should head home early if they can.

The disruption could hit the turnout for Britain’s referendum on whether to stay in the 28-nation European Union as many people go to polling booths after work. The polls close at 10 p.m. (2100GMT).


5:10 p.m.

Italy’s finance minister says whatever British voters decide, there’s already a fracture with the European Union.

Minister Pier Carlo Padoan is being quoted as saying at a forum in Rome on Thursday that no matter what happens, it will be impossible to assert “let’s pick up as if nothing” happened.

The Italian news agency ANSA quoted him as saying that as Britons vote to decide whether to exit or stay in the EU, that “the fracture has already happened and in a very clear-cut way.” Padoan said the consequences will vary, depending on the outcome, but “there won’t be the same path as if there hadn’t been the referendum initiative.”


4:15 p.m.

The European Union’s migration commissioner has described the British people as an “integral part of our European family” as voters decide whether to remain in the bloc.

Dimitris Avramopoulos told a finance conference near Athens that “this … is one of the most crucial moments of modern European history.

“The citizens of the United Kingdom, an integral part of our European family, are deciding whether they want to remain or exit our common European home.”

Europe’s migration crisis played a prominent role in the campaigning ahead of Thursday’s referendum by those who want Britain to leave the EU.

Avramopoulos said: “Let’s be frank: Europe found itself unprepared in the middle of an unprecedented migration and refugee crisis.” He added that the number of arrivals by migrants and refugees in the EU this year had been drastically reduced by tougher border policing and a deportation agreement with Turkey.


2:20 p.m.

The founder of anti-secrecy site WikiLeaks plans to host a live, online punditry show about Britain’s referendum on whether to stay in the EU.

Julian Assange has been holed up in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London since 2012.

He is wanted for questioning by Swedish police over rape allegations stemming from his visit to the country in 2010. He denies all the accusations against him made by two women.

The Australian recently said he was “pretty much” in favour of Britain leaving the European Union, arguing that its membership was holding the 28-nation bloc back.

Guests billed for Assange’s show include Greece’s ex-finance minister Yanis Varoufakis, musician Brian Eno and “former CIA officers.” It is scheduled to run from 1900 GMT Thursday until early Friday morning, when referendum results are expected.


2:10 p.m.

England soccer captain Wayne Rooney isn’t following David Beckham’s lead in announcing how he voted in the referendum about whether Britain remains in the European Union. Or even if he voted at all.

Asked Thursday if he voted, Rooney said, “I’d like to keep that private.”

Speaking at England’s training base north of Paris during the European Championship, Rooney said, “The option has been there for the players (to vote during the tournament) — I don’t know which ones have, which ones haven’t.”

On Tuesday, Beckham, a former England captain, said he would be voting for Britain to remain in the European Union, highlighting how his successes with English club Manchester United owed much to European players and how welcoming he later found playing soccer for continental clubs.


1:25 p.m.

A sense of uncertainty seemed to hang over central Edinburgh in Scotland as voters pondered how a vote for Britain to leave the European Union might affect the Scottish independence movement.

Some believe a British decision to leave the EU bloc in Thursday’s referendum might trigger another Scottish vote on independence like the one that fell short in 2014.

Clayton Thomson, a 30-year-old bar manager, said Scottish nationalists might call another referendum if a “leave” vote takes Scotland and the rest of Britain out of the European bloc.

Retiree Robert McCallum, 84, also believes a British exit, or Brexit, would increase calls for Scotland to sever its ties to Britain.

The popular Scottish National Party, which spearheads the Scottish independence movement, advocates keeping Britain inside the EU.


1:15 p.m.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel says the European Union should respond in a calm and inclusive way to whatever result emerges from the British referendum on EU membership.

Merkel said after meeting her Austrian counterpart in Berlin Thursday that she doesn’t favour discussing the consequences in small groups of EU countries. She said: “overall, I think discussions must now be continued with 28 (countries) if possible and otherwise with all countries — that would be 27 — but my hopes are pinned on it possibly being able to remain 28.”

She noted that an already-scheduled EU summit starting next Tuesday will give countries “the opportunity to discuss all together and calmly how we continue to implement our agenda.”


1 p.m.

Denmark’s prime minister says “it would be a tough job” to work out what would happen if British voters decide to leave the European Union.

Lars Loekke Rasmussen says work would start Friday, adding he hopes for “a peaceful divorce” should Britain leave the bloc that it joined at the same time as Danes in 1973. The Scandinavian nation has opted out of parts of EU treaties for fear of losing sovereignty but it has no plans for a membership referendum.

Norwegian Foreign Minister Boerge Brende, whose country twice has rejected EU membership, wrote Thursday on Twitter “Fingers crossed for (hashtag) remain.”

The oil-rich nation has signed up to the European Economic Area agreement and thereby access to the EU’s huge single market.


12:30 p.m.

Hungary’s foreign minister says it would be against the interests of his country and of the European Union for Britain to leave the EU.

Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto on Thursday described Britain as a “pragmatic voice” in the debate about the future of the EU, often in line with Hungary’s vision of the 28-member bloc, adding that its exit would be “contradictory” from a political and economic perspective.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban earlier this week bought a full-page ad in a British newspaper The Daily Mail, to say that “Hungary is proud to stand with you as a member of the European Union.”

An estimated 300,000 Hungarians live in Britain.


11:55 a.m.

An opinion poll conducted on the eve of Britain’s referendum shows a narrow lead for those who want Britain to remain a part of the European Union.

Polling firm Ipsos MORI says the “remain” camp enjoyed a four-point lead ahead of the vote. But the polling firm’s chief executive, Ben Page, says 13 per cent of those polled said they still might change their minds.

The poll of 1,592 people was conducted for the Evening Standard newspaper and was completed Wednesday night.

Page said Thursday that heavy rain in London may affect the vote, because the British capital is seen as a “remain” stronghold.

Recent opinion polls in Britain have been unreliable.


11:40 a.m.

Betfair 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 per cent, with a British exit or Brexit given just a 14 per cent 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 U.S. presidential election at 40 million pounds.

The FTSE 100 gained 1.5 per cent in early trading to 6,355.64, buoyed by sentiment that the uncertainty caused by a potential Brexit may be receding.


10:40 a.m.

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.

The pound was up 1.1 per cent on the day, at $1.4874, the highest level so far this year. Britain’s benchmark stock index, the FTSE 100, was up 1.6 per cent at 6,362. Germany’s DAX was up 2.2 per cent at 10,297.

Experts say that an exit from the EU would hurt the pound as well as global stock markets, at least in the short term.

While exit polls are not allowed to be published during Thursday’s vote, which closes at 10 p.m. (2100 GMT) some financial companies have reportedly commissioned private exit polling services to help guide their trading.


10:30 a.m.

Germany’s biggest-selling newspaper has an offer for the British: stay in the European Union and we’ll stop making jokes about Prince Charles’ ears and reserve you places by the hotel pool in the morning.

The mass-circulation Bild daily dipped into decades of cliches about British-German relations for its front page Thursday, headlined “Dear Britons, if you stay in the EU …”

Among the offers: “We won’t use any sun cream at the beach any more — out of solidarity with your sunburn!” And “we’ll push through an EU directive banning foam on beer!”

Topping the list was an offer that would stick in any Germany soccer fan’s throat: “Even we will recognize the Wembley goal!” That’s a reference to England’s third goal in its 1966 World Cup final victory, which Germans maintain didn’t cross the goal line.


9:05 a.m.

Voters in parts of Britain are facing floods and torrential downpours as they cast their ballots in a referendum on whether or not to remain in the European Union.

The capital, London, is expecting a month’s rainfall in a few hours Thursday. Overnight thunderstorms flooded some streets, homes and businesses. Commuters also suffered disruptions.

London’s Fire Brigade says it received hundreds of calls related to the weather, including reports of lightning strikes and rising water that trapped vehicles.

The Environment Agency has issued four flood warnings and 22 flood alerts across the southeastern part of the country.

Sunny weather is predicted for much of the rest of the country.

Pollsters say turnout will be a critical factor in the vote. A large turnout will favour the “remain” campaign as those who waver at the end tend to go for the status quo.


9 a.m.

Prime Minister David Cameron has cast his ballot in the referendum on whether or not Britain will remain in the European Union.

The Conservative leader had headed the campaign to have Britain stay in the 28-nation bloc.

The leader of the opposition Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, also cast his ballot in the referendum, which is considered historic because it will have an impact on generations to come.


7:15 a.m.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull says there will be a big impact on the global economy if Britain votes to leave the European Union.

“It would be a very big shock, there is no doubt about that. … There will be obviously be great efforts to ensure that the consequences of that shock are minimized,” Turnbull told reporters.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop told reporters it is in Australia’s “national interest for a strong Britain, an indispensable friend and ally of ours, to remain within the European Union.”


7 a.m.

Polls have opened in Britain for a referendum on whether the country should quit the European Union bloc it joined 43 years ago.

More than 46 million people are registered to vote in Thursday’s plebiscite, which asks: “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?”

Polls are open until 10 p.m. (2100GMT), with results due early Friday.

The referendum has exposed deep divisions over issues including sovereignty and national identity.

“Leave” campaigners claim that only a British exit can restore power to Parliament and control immigration. The “remain” campaign led by Prime Minister David Cameron argues that Britain is safer and richer inside the 28-nation EU.

Financial markets have been volatile ahead of the vote, as opinion polls suggested a tight race.

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