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It's Decision Time In The U.K.: Voters To Settle 'Brexit' Question

People arrive to cast their votes Thursday at Hove Museum and Art gallery in Hove, which is near Brighton in southern England. Millions of voters are having their say in a bitterly fought, knife-edge referendum that could tear up the United Kingdom's EU membership.
People arrive to cast their votes Thursday at Hove Museum and Art gallery in Hove, which is near Brighton in southern England. Millions of voters are having their say in a bitterly fought, knife-edge referendum that could tear up the United Kingdom's EU membership.

Should they stay or should they go?

Today the United Kingdom votes on the so-called Brexit, or the possibility of leaving the European Union.

Polls opened at 7 a.m. local time (2 a.m. ET) and will close at 10 p.m. (5 p.m. ET). British citizens, including some who live abroad, are eligible to vote, as well as citizens of Ireland and Commonwealth countries who live in the U.K. or Gibraltar.

The votes (marked by an X on a paper ballot) are counted by hand, and official results likely won't be known until Friday morning.

Watching For Clues

During this vote, there are no exit polls that the general public can watch for a hint as to the outcome. Earlier opinion polls have indicated a tight race, while bookies say odds are the U.K. will opt to remain.

There's another way to keep an indirect eye on what's happening at the polls: watching the stock market.

While no public exit polls are being conducted, the Financial Times reports that some major financial institutions are paying for privateexit polls to help them make money off the outcome.

Whatever their data source, as of Thursday morning, banks seemed to have faith that voters will choose "Remain."

"The [FTSE] 100 share index, aka the 'Footsie,' in London right now is up 1 1/2 percent," David Brancaccio said on "Analysts read this as, in part, a bet the U.K. remains within Europe once the votes are counted."

A volunteer hands an unmarked ballot paper to a voter inside a bus being used as a polling station in Kingston-upon-Hull, northern England, on Thursday.
Lindsey Parnaby / AFP/Getty Images
A volunteer hands an unmarked ballot paper to a voter inside a bus being used as a polling station in Kingston-upon-Hull, northern England, on Thursday.

Mum's The Word

While the vote is happening, people in Britain are legally prohibited from distributing information or taking actions that might influence voters.

Campaigning has stopped, and news outlets can't report on the vote — or on any of the issuesintertwined with the vote, of which there are many.

"All we can talk about are what people are wearing and the weather," NPR's London bureau producer Rich Preston comments. "How very British."

Some suggest that even the weather isn't as neutral as it seems: Poor weather could suppress turnout, possibly aiding the "Leave" camp. So far, it's been sunny in much of the country, with heavy rains in the southeast.

Recommended Reading

Curious about what a Brexit could mean? Check out these pieces from NPR reporters and editors:

  • A Guide To Britain's 'Brexit' Vote: A primer on the history and significance of the referendum.
  • Britain's 'Brexit' Vote Has Echoes Of The U.S. Presidential Race: What "Leave" campaigner Nigel Farage and Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump have in common.
  • From London To The Welsh Coast, Sharp Disagreements On 'Brexit': The dispute within the U.K.
  • A Vote In The U.K. Could Affect Your Wallet: Reduced trade, domino effects, currency turbulence: how a Brexit might touch your life.
  • Great Britain's Long Retreat: A big-picture look at how the largest empire in history shrank its international presence.
  • Why, Yes, There Are Cute Animal Pictures

    You may have noticed that, during the U.K.'s fierce debate over the EU referendum, cats played an outsize role in the Internet discussion — with #CatsAgainstBrexit and #CatsForBrexit hashtags.

    Now that voting has begun, the dogs are joining in, in a display of canine civic participation.

    Just look for #dogsatpollingstations.

    Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.