Brexit voting nearly closed

  • 24/06/2016
David Cameron and his wife Samantha leave the polling booth early on Thursday morning (local time) (Twitter)
David Cameron and his wife Samantha leave the polling booth early on Thursday morning (local time) (Twitter)

Brexit voting day is almost over for the United Kingdom, but the first results won't be declared for several hours.

As the world watches the UK make its decision on whether to stay with or leave the European Union, there are more warnings that an exit could hurt New Zealand.

Stephen Jacobi from the International Business Forum says it'll be harder for us to negotiate with the EU if the British are no longer at the table.

Mr Jacobi says a vote for Brexit would also force New Zealand to re-negotiate all its trade links with the UK.

Severe wet weather across London and the southeast may play a role in how many turn out to vote.

In London, thousands of people may not get to voting booths in time, as tube stations are hampered by overcrowding and service suspensions.

Reports say services are not operating at Waterloo -- one of London's main stations.

Monument and Bank tube stations have been evacuated after a fire alert.

Canon Street, Charing Cross, London Bridge and Victoria stations have also been affected by the chaos. 

Much will depend on turnout, with younger Britons seen as more supportive of the EU than their elders but less likely to vote.

If Britain becomes the first state to exit the EU, the so-called Brexit would be the biggest blow to the 28-nation bloc since its foundation.

The EU would be stripped of its second-biggest economy and one of its two main military powers, and could face calls for similar votes by anti-EU politicians in other countries.

If it votes to stay, Britain has been promised a special status exempting it from further political integration but European leaders will still have to address a sharp rise in euroscepticism across the continent.

A Brexit vote would also deal a potentially fatal blow to the career of Prime Minister David Cameron, who called the referendum and campaigned for the country to stay in, against a Leave camp led by rivals from within his own Conservative party.

After four months of campaigning, polling stations opened at 7am local time and were due to close at 10pm (8am NZ time), with results expected to be announced by the 382 individual local counting areas between around midnight and 2am (around 11:30am NZ time) on Friday.

The 'Leave' campaign says Britain would recover full sovereignty and the economy would benefit from a Brexit.

It focused its campaign on warnings that Britain would be unable to control immigration levels as long as it was an EU member.

'Remain' says a Brexit would cause financial chaos, impoverish the nation and diminish its influence on world affairs, emphasising the economic benefits of membership and the risks posed by leaving.

The campaign was suspended for three days after the killing of pro-EU member of parliament Jo Cox a week ago, which prompted soul-searching about the vicious tone of the debate.

An Ipsos MORI poll for the Evening Standard newspaper found support for 'Remain' on 52 percent and 'Leave' on 48 percent.

A Populus poll put 'Remain' 10 points ahead on 55 percent. Both were conducted on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Cameron voted early and said on Twitter: "Today's the day you can vote for a stronger future - with Britain leading, not leave, Europe. #VoteRemain"

His main rival, fellow Conservative former London mayor Boris Johnson, who is the favourite with bookmakers to succeed Cameron, tweeted: "Now is the time to believe in this country and #VoteLeave. Let's make today our Independence Day."

If Britons choose to leave, Scottish leader Nicola Sturgeon has suggested Scotland, where sentiment towards the EU is much more positive, may hold another a referendum on leaving the United Kingdom. Scots voted against independence in a plebiscite in 2014.

Traders, investors and companies were braced for volatility on financial markets whatever the outcome of a vote that both reflected, and has fuelled, an anti-establishment mood also seen in the United States and elsewhere in Europe.

After the Ipsos MORI poll was released, sterling broke above US$1.49 for the first time since 2015, although it later fell back and was at US$1.48. It had fallen almost to US$1.40 last week when polls showed a surge towards 'Leave'.

The likelihood of a 'Remain' vote implied by Betfair betting odds stood at 86 percent, the firm said.

Newshub. / Reuters