Britain votes to leave EU - UK media forecasts

2016-06-24 05:32
(File, AP)

(File, AP)

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London - Britain has voted to leave the European Union, according to forecasts by the BBC, ITV and Sky News with almost all the results counted on Friday.

With 304 out of 382 votes counted, Brexit was ahead at 52 percent following Thursday's referendum.

Sterling and stock markets plummeted as investors feared a historic blow against the alliance, an economic and political force created 60 years ago out of a determination to forge lasting peace from the carnage of two world wars.

The pound hit a seven-year low of $1.36 while stock markets in Sydney and Hong Kong slumped by three percent.

Economists have warned that a Brexit will usher in a period of great economic uncertainty in Britain and across the world.

"If the predictions now are right, this will be a victory for real people. A victory for ordinary people. A victory for decent people," said leading Brexit campaigner Nigel Farage, the head of the UK Independence Party.

After months of banking on Britain remaining in the bloc, major bookmakers switched sides as the results came in, making the "Leave" camp strong favourite.

With results in for 200 of the 382 areas that took part across Britain, the final result was on a knife edge - 51.7% for "Leave" and 48.3% for "Remain" - with heavyweights including London yet to be declared.

"The Remain campaign appears to be in serious trouble," said Craig Erlam, senior market analyst at the brokerage Oanda.

"While there is still a long way to go, it is clear that people has significantly underestimated how many would vote to leave."

Incredibly close 

At the all-night Lexington Bar in central London, jittery punters cheered whenever "Remain" appeared to regain the upper hand.

"This is incredibly close. We have no idea where this is going to go," said 33-year-old "Remain" supporter Beverly David.

A record 46.5 million people had registered to vote, many of them braving torrential rain and floods to take a momentous decision after a highly charged battle over immigration, the economy and Britain's very identity.

"It's far more confused. It does look very close so that makes the prediction even more difficult," said London School of Economics professor Kevin Featherstone.

In Brussels, the prospect of the world's fifth-largest economy quitting the European club has raised concerns of a domino effect of exit votes that would imperil the integrity of the bloc, already buffeted by the eurozone and migration crises.

A defeat for "Remain" would lead to immediate pressure on Prime Minister David Cameron to stand down. The Conservative Party leader took a high-stakes gamble by promising the vote three years ago but it has deeply divided his party and the nation.

Crisis 

Brexit could trigger a constitutional crisis in Britain, too. If the country votes to leave the EU while Scotland chooses to stay, it could trigger a new independence referendum just two years after Scots voted against going it alone.

The first results from cities in northern England showed stronger-than-expected support for a Brexit. Champagne corks popped at an anti-Brussels party attended by Farage.

But a strident declaration of some heavily populated areas of London for "Remain" helped redress the balance.

One of the final polls, a YouGov survey, indicated a 52 percent-48 percent advantage for the "Remain" camp.

An Ipsos MORI poll said telephone interviews conducted on referendum day showed "Remain" at 54% and "Leave" at 46%.

'Too close to call' 

Leading Brexit campaigner Boris Johnson joined 83 other Conservative MPs in signing a letter released Thursday that insisted the prime minister should stay in his post regardless of the result of Britain's decision.

Johnson, the former London mayor, said the race was "very close", as he returned to the British capital from Edinburgh.

Several polling stations had to be relocated due to flooding and one was being run on a generator due to a power outage.

Polling stations were set up at locations including churches, schools and even a launderette and a windmill.

EU leaders have warned Britain that there would be no turning back from a vote to quit.

"Out is out," European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker said Wednesday, dismissing any talk of a post-vote renegotiation of Britain's membership terms.

EU leaders will begin a two-day summit Tuesday to deal with the outcome and decide how to cope with the risk of similar referendums on the continent.

In many European countries, newspapers pleaded "Please don't go" while several monuments were lit up with the British flag.

Britain's referendum battle was shaken by the brutal murder of Jo Cox, a pro-"Remain" Labour lawmaker and mother of two who was stabbed, shot and left bleeding in the street one week before the vote.

Thomas Mair, 52, has been charged with her murder and had a provisional trial date set for November at a court hearing on Thursday.

Read more on:    uk  |  brexit

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