A supporter of leaving the EU celebrates in central London. Image Credit: AP

Counting is under way in UK's historic referendum on the European Union membership. Opinion polls suggest that Britons have voted to stay in the European Union. Gulf News brings you news, views and updates as the historic moment unfolds. 


7.10am, Dubai: Leave leads by 450,000 with 19.5 million votes counted.

"Let June 23 go down in our history as our independence day," declares Nigel Farage, leader of the UK Independence Party.

Nigel Farage: "The dawn is breaking on an independent United Kingdom. This will be a victory for real people, a victory for ordinary people."

Leave 9.1 million votes; Remain 8.7 million votes

6.55am, Dubai: Leave leads by 432,000 with 16.7 million votes counted.

Trading in Singapore has just opened, with Asian markets reacting nervously to the results so far.

6.50am, Dubai: With more than half of the votes still to come in, "It does look as if the Leave side are favourites," says Professor John Curtice of the University of Strathclyde, "but it's still too early to call." Senior Whitehall source says: "This [Brexit] wasn't supposed to happen. Everything will go through the floor."

6.40am, Dubai: With 15 million votes counted, Leave leads by 500,000.

6.31am, Dubai: The final result will hinge on how London and its large population votes, with six of 33 boroughs reporting so far. If Remain wins, it's on the basis of support in the capital and Scotland.

With 13 million votes counted, Leave leads by 300,000 votes.

6.30am, Dubai: Northern Ireland supports Leave by 54% to 46%

6.25am, Dubai: Leave take a 300,000 vote lead, with 12 million votes counted.

EU vote shows divided Britain, result too close to call

6.20am, Dubai: Britain's bitterly contested referendum on whether to quit the European Union was too close to call on Friday as early results showed a deeply divided nation while the pound was hammered on financial markets.

Bookmakers adjusted their odds to reflect an even chance of a 'Brexit' as the Leave camp grabbed an early lead, before results from Glasgow and parts of London helped the Remain side to inch ahead as a nail-biting national count proceeded.

6.10am, Dubai: Leave lead by 60,000 votes with almost 9 million votes counted, and one-third of the 382 districts reporting.

6.05am, Dubai: Turnout in London is expected to be 74%. Monsoon-like rainfall in the city caused seven of 3,800 polling stations to be moved.

5.55am, Dubai: London borough of Islington votes to Remain, giving the Remain side a 55,000 lead nationally, at 50.2% to Leave's 49.8% with 100 of 382 districts reporting. 

5.40am, Dubai: Turnout in the referendum is expected to exceed 70%, the largest turnout in a UK election since the 1997 general election. Northern Ireland and Scotland are both likely to support Remain, with Wales almost evenly split. Alex Salmond, the former First Minister of Scotland, says he believes Northern Ireland and Scotland will be the deciding factor in a Remain win. 

5.35am, Dubai: "Win or lose tonight, we will win this war. We will get our country back," Nigel Farage, leader of the UK Independence Party and Leave campaigner, says.

5.30AM, Dubai:  Remain are at 50.7% to 49.3% after 4.5 hours of counting.

With large London boroughs beginning to report, the Remain side is starting to increase its narrow lead, indicating that London may very well be the deciding factor. Leave is polling well in rural and northern England.

Sterling, stocks skid as Brexit result agonisingly close

Carnage came to world markets on Friday as early voting returns suggested Britain was on the brink of leaving the European Union, threatening the existent of the entire bloc and its single currency.

At one stage the British pound had collapsed no less than 10 US cents, its biggest fall in living memory, while the euro slid 1 percent as investors feared for its future.

Sterling was last at $1.4450, having carved out a massive range of $1.4000 to $1.5022. At it worse, the fall was even larger than during the global financial crisis and the currency was moving one or two cents in the blink of an eye.

"Sterling is getting smackadoodled," said Tim Kelleher, Head of FX Institutional Sales New Zealand for ASB Bank in Auckland. "While we thought it was all going to be "Remain", it's quite clearly not going to be as clear cut as that." Early official results showed the margins were nail-bitingly tight but pointing to a "Leave". 

1.06 am BST, Friday [5.06am, Dubai]:  With results in from 28 out 382 voting regions, Leave takes 51.2% while Remain has 48.8%, according to a SkyNews tally.

Areas that voted Leave: Basildon, Blaenau Gwent, Brentwood, Broxbourne, Flintshire, Hartlepool, Kettering, Merthyr Tydfil, Middlesbrough, South Tyneside, Stockton-on-Tees, Sunderland, Swindon, Weymouth & Portland

Areas that voted Remain: City of London, Clackmannanshire, Dundee, East Ayrshire, Gibraltar, Inverclyde, Isles of Scilly, Midlothian, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Orkney Islands, Renfrewshire, Shetland Islands, West Dunbartonshire and Western Isles.

12.06 am BST, Friday [4.06am, Dubai]: Leave wins in Sunderland by 22%, while Newcastle votes Remain by a margin of 1% — tighter than predicted — and there are Leave wins in Swindon and Broxbourne, the British media reported. The city of Sunderland in north eastern England voted more strongly than expected to leave the EU. According to official results, 61.3 percent of voters in Sunderland backed leaving the bloc, above the 56.5 percent predicted by J.P. Morgan in analysis published before the vote. Sunderland, one of the first few results to declare, has a large number of older, lower income voters who polls show are more likely to back so-called "Brexit". If Leave had not been strongly ahead here, it could have indicated they would struggle to break through in areas less favourable to Brexit.

A full picture, however, is not expected to emerge for two or three hours as counting continues around the country. Turnout looks set to be higher than at last year's general election.

Pound falls 6% as "Leave" strengthens in early count

11.33 pm BST, Thursday [3.33am, Friday, Dubai]: 
 "Leave" strength in early poll results in sudden sell-off of pound in international trading. Pound falls 6% in 15 minutes.

11.23 pm BST, Thursday [3.23am, Friday, Dubai]: Sterling falls 1% on news Leave leads 161,744 to Remain's 158,536 after 5 of 382 local authority areas report.

11.20 pm BST, Thursday [3.20am, Friday, Dubai]:  ‘Leave’ takes lead in referendum with 5 of 382 electoral districts reporting. 

Slim margin for "Remain" in Newcastle 

11.01pm BST, Thursday [3.01am, Friday, Dubai]:  Newcastle referendum result: 129,072 votes cast.

Remain: 65,404 — 50.7%

Leave: 63,598 — 49.3%

10.44pm BST, Thursday [2.44am, Friday, Dubai]: "I have been demonised for the past 10 years," Nigel Farage, Ukip leader says. " The Eurosceptic genie is out of the bottle and will not be put back."

Remain ahead in Gibraltar

10.40pm BST, Thursday [2.40am, Dubai]: Gibraltar is the first to report result with "Remain" votes in the British overseas territory far ahead (96%) of "Leave".

Remain: 19,322
Leave: 823

A big Remain win had been predicted in Gibraltar amid concerns about its border with Spain.

10.21pm BST, Thursday [1.21am Friday, Dubai]: Conservative party cabinet ministers who support Leave — including Boris Johnson and Michael Gove — sign a letter telling David Cameron that regardless of result, he has a duty to carry on as party leader and as Prime Minister.

10.16pm BST, Thursday: Ian Duncan Smith MP for Leave side tells BBC turnout in council housing areas is particularly high, at 80 per cent, whereas in general elections, turnout in council housing areas are normally 30 per cent — and that will favour Leave.

10.11pm BST, Thursday: Moments after polls close, United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) and Leave campaigner says "Remain" might just have squeaked through.

Gibraltar reports 84 per cent turnout.

After voting closed, British politician and leading “Leave” campaigner Boris Johnson says “democracy has been served”.

10.05pm BST, Thursday [1.05am, Friday, Dubai]: Voting ends, counting underway in the referendum that will decide whether or not the UK remains a member of the EU. Prime Minister David Cameron thanks British voters and the "Remain" campaigners.

On online Populus poll shows that support for remaining in the EU stood at 55 percent, with 45 percent supporting a Brexit.

Populus, which released the results on Twitter while Britain's referendum was under way on Thursday, said the survey of 4,700 was carried out on Tuesday and up to midnight on Wednesday night.


51% would vote remain: YouGov poll

A YouGov poll for the Time shows 51 per cent of Britons would vote remain in the European Union. The same YouGov poll showed that 49 per cent of Britons would vote to leave, according to a Reuters report.

So far, four polls published over the last 24 hours suggest Britons will vote to stay in the EU at Thursday's referendum.


New EU referendum poll puts 'Remain' at 52 per cent

The campaign to keep Britain in the European Union has a narrow lead, according to a new opinion poll released Thursday as Britons voted in a tight referendum.

The Ipsos MORI poll for the Evening Standard newspaper put "Remain" on 52 per cent and "Leave" on 48 per cent, sending the pound soaring against the dollar. Polling was carried out on Tuesday and Wednesday.



Labour leader Corbyn votes 

UK Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn casts vote in EU referendum in Islington, London.

Nigel Farage votes in the referendum

Nigel Farage, the leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), arrives to vote in the EU referendum, at a polling station in Biggin Hill, Britain. Reuters


Nicola Sturgeon casts her vote

Scotland's First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, casts her vote in Glasgow. AP

Asia stocks advance as Britain’s EU referendum gets under way

Asian stocks edged higher on low trading volume as investors brace for the outcome of Britain's referendum on European Union membership.

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index climbed 0.8 per cent to 130.55 as of 4:05 pm in Hong Kong, led by gains in Japanese equities, while stock gauges in Indonesia, Shanghai and Taiwan declined. With voting already under way in the UK, past opinion polls showed the referendum was too close to call. Volumes Thursday were below average in Japan, India and Australia.

Japan's Topix index rose 1.1 per cent, with turnover dropping to its second-lowest level this year, while the yen weakened 0.1 per cent to 104.47 per dollar. The Topix is down 16 per cent already in 2016, the second-largest decline among 24 developed equity markets tracked by Bloomberg.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index added 0.4 per cent and the Shanghai Composite Index dropped 0.5 per cent. South Korea's Kospi index declined 0.3 per cent, Australia's S&P/ASX 200 Index gained 0.2 per cent and New Zealand's S&P/NZX 50 Index rose 0.6 per cent. Singapore's Straits Times Index added 0.4 per cent.

Vietnamese shares climbed 0.9 per cent, while stocks in Indonesia, Taiwan and the Philippines dropped at least 0.3 per cent.

Futures on the S&P 500 Index advanced 0.5 perc ent. The underlying gauge lost 0.2 per cent on Wednesday.

Erdogan suggests UK-style referendum on Turkey EU bid

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Reuters

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has suggested Turkey could hold a referendum over whether to continue its long-stalled accession process to join the European Union.

Angrily lashing out at the bloc’s treatment of Ankara, Erdogan said Turkey could hold a referendum along the lines of the plebescite in Britain, where voters are deciding Thursday whether to stay in the European Union or leave.

His comments were the first time the Turkish strongman had raised the prospect of holding a referendum on Turkey’s EU bid. He had previously repeatedly insisted that full membership of the European Union was Turkey’s strategic aim.

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German paper offers England a reason to vote to remain in EU

England’s controversial third goal scored in the 1966 World Cup final. AP

Germany has offered a special deal to Great Britain, specifically England, in an attempt to sway the British public to vote “remain” in Thursday’s EU referendum.

German newspaper Bild has offered to acknowledge that England’s third goal in the 1966 World Cup final, when England beat West Germany 4-2 at Wembley, was genuine.

Read more 

British Prime Minister David Cameron and his wife Samantha arrive to cast their votes in the EU referendum, at a polling station in London. AFP

I wait with bated breath

I am not sure I can bear reading anything about Brexit today just in case it goes the wrong way. If Britain votes to leave Europe it would be a very depressing state of affairs.

I have always been a bit of a fan of Boris, but his comments over Brexit and being Great Britain have really left me cold. I understand Europe is not very democratic, but then for people in the North of England (let alone Scotland, Wales or Ireland), Westminster does not feel that responsive either. I do believe in more devolved powers over policing, education, energy, recycling – where issues are community based – but for macro issues we have to accept that these need to be done on a supra-national basis. We need to get over the idea of national sovereignty.

What I do like about the Brexit debate is that this is democracy in action. It may not be pretty. In fact, it has often been ugly but this is a country debating a real issue, and deciding its own future. It is what politics should be about, and is quite a sight to see. I would imagine many people living in less democratic regimes at this level at least will be quite jealous.

What I dislike about the debate is what I dislike about all debates – the reduction to point scoring rather than argument to resolution. Often legitimate, valid points are portrayed as resorting to the tactics of fear, or conversely, being Little England or Xenophobic. On both sides there are genuine concerns and fears, and even where these do not hold up to scrutiny, they should be challenged in a rational, mature way – not shouted down.

It has been a very divisive debate. It will be interesting to see how it plays out post vote either way it goes. I hope it will prove to have been cathartic, and after all of the emotion, the country will heal quickly and move forward. It will be a shame if the bitterness lingers. Personally I do not think it will. It did not after the Scotland vote. People just rolled up their sleeves and got on with it.

David Westley, Portal Manager, Gulfnews.com

Quick facts

  1. Polling stations opened at 07:00 BST and will close at 22:00 BST
  2. Around 46.5m people are entitled to take part in the vote
  3. It is only the third nationwide referendum in UK history

Voters warned of flooding

People living in south-east England and London may have to brave floods and torrential downpours to cast their ballots.

London Fire Brigade says it received hundreds of calls overnight to reports of weather-related incidents, including lightning striking property, flooded homes and vehicles being trapped by rising water. 

The Environment Agency has issued four flood warnings covering rivers in Bromley, Sidcup and Basildon and 22 flood alerts across south-east England. 

Dry, fine and sunny weather is predicted for most of the country, with showers expected in parts of Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Asia markets, pound edge up as Britain starts voting

11.30am: The pound rallied against the dollar in Asian trade while stock markets were mostly up but traders stepped nervously as Britain began voting in a knife-edge in-out EU referendum Thursday.

Attention around the globe is now fixated on the ballot, which opinion polls are saying is too close to call but bookmakers suggest will definitely see a victory for the "remain" camp.

Markets suffered a sharp sell-off last week after surveys indicated the country would leave, which many analysts warn could lead to another global rout just months after a China-fuelled sell-off that wiped trillions off valuations.

Hours before the 0600 GMT start of voting, the pound hit a 2016 record of $1.4844 before easing slightly to $1.4755, but still up from $1.4737 in New York. Sterling has risen almost six percent since hitting a two-month low last Thursday.

On equity markets, Tokyo ended up 1.1 percent and Sydney was 0.2 percent higher while Hong Kong rose 0.4 percent in the afternoon. Shanghai closed 0.5 percent down and Seoul shed 0.3 percent.

The dollar eased to 104.37 yen from 104.51 yen in US trade.

Millions of Britons began voting 

10.05am, UAE time: Millions of Britons began voting Thursday in a bitterly-fought, knife-edge referendum that could tear up the island nation's EU membership and spark the greatest emergency of the bloc's 60-year history.

A record 46.5 million voters have registered to decide on Britain's future in the 28-nation European Union, which was born out of a determination to forge lasting peace in the continent after the carnage of two world wars.

Arab expats hope Britain will remain friendly after vote

Hamid Beloushi was looking for jeans in the Levi store on Regent Street. His size wasn’t in stock, so the 27-year-old chemical engineer from Cairo was going to continue his shopping expedition further down the crowded curving street. “I don’t understand why Britain wants to leave the European Union,” he says. “There’s nothing like it anywhere else. You can move freely. No visas. No paperwork or waiting to get things done. You don’t need to pay a bribe to make things happen.”

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Political campaigning reaches new lows

Leave supporters hold up placards in Clacton-on-Sea as UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage visits on Tuesday. AFP

With 46.5 million Britons registered to vote in Thursday’s referendum on the UK’s future in or out of the European Union, the vicious and divisive nature of the campaign has unleashed a new era in politics here. “It’s very much the Americanisation of British politics,” Jonathan Wilson, a researcher in statistics told Gulf News.

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Ryanair CEO says Brexit vote could cause whole of EU to unravel

A Ryanair aircraft at London’s Stansted Airport. Ryanair’s CEO Michael O’Leary favours an overhaul of the EU to make it less bureaucratic and simplify regulations. Bloomberg

Ryanair Holdings Plc Chief Executive Officer Michael O’Leary said a UK vote to leave the European Union could lead the whole of the 28-nation bloc to unravel.

Speaking one day before a referendum on a so-called Brexit, O’Leary, an Irishman who has emerged as one of the most outspoken backers of the “Remain” campaign, warned that a victory for the “Leave” side would signal “an end to the European project.”

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Can Brexit reawaken Scottish independence dream?

The perceived wisdom in much of the UK ahead of Thursday’s European Union referendum vote is that Scottish Nationalist dreams of independence would be reawakened should Britain opt for a Brexit. Former Prime Minister Sir John Major has gone so far as warning that a victory for Leave could ‘tear the UK apart’ as the pro-European Scots would be outraged at being dragged out of the bloc by their neighbours.

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The disarray a Brexit would wreak

Here’s what the world could look like on June 24 if the “Leave” camp won the previous day’s referendum on whether the UK should continue to be part of the European Union: The foreign exchange markets are in turmoil, with the pound falling 7-10 per cent and the euro down about 3-5 per cent. Stocks also are under considerable pressure as investors try to price in greater institutional uncertainties and the coming hit to economic growth.

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The end of European ‘soft power’

Germany would probably have been content with the status quo here in the Old World. The United States and China are by now, economically speaking, significantly superior to Germany. They also play in a different league on the military front. All of this could be borne with magnanimity, seeing as the Old World has something in abundance that no other region on the planet has to offer, namely its good reputation. Even as the hard numbers, such as gross domestic product, may be trending in the wrong direction, Europe is still a force to be reckoned with in “soft power”.

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- With inputs from Mick O'Reilly, Senior Assoaciate Editor, in London