Voting on one of the most globally significant events in recent memory began this morning, as Britons head to the polls to decide their nation's standing in the world. The EU referendum is simple -- vote to remain in the European Union, or exit the common market and strike out on their own once again.
Campaigning on both sides has had more than a fair share of rhetoric and hyperbole, but when you get down to brass tacks, the real answer is that no one knows what would happen on a Brexit. Nothing like this has even happened before, so there is no prior experience to build a data set from. There's little wonder that, with nothing but speculation available regarding the consequences, around 10% of Britons remain undecided on voting day.
Putting aside the conjecture of what will happen if the UK stays or if it goes, here is what we do know:
Who Can Vote in the Brexit Referendum?
The referendum isn't just for Britons living in the UK. The following people are allowed to vote on Brexit:
- UK citizens living abroad who have been registered to vote in the UK any time in the last 15 years;
- Irish citizens living abroad who were born in Northern Ireland and have been registered to vote in Northern Ireland in the last 15 years;
- Citizens of the 53-member Commonwealth of Nations who are British residents;
- Citizens of the Republic of Ireland who are British residents, even though Ireland is not in the Commonwealth;
- Citizens of Cyprus and Malta who are British residents. As members of the Commonwealth, they will be the only other EU nations allowed to vote in the Brexit referendum;
- Citizens of Gibraltar, and Commonwealth citizens who are residents of Gibraltar;
- Members of the House of Lords of the British Parliament (usually barred from voting in general elections).
All otherwise eligible voters must be 18 years of age or older
Who Can't Vote in the Brexit Referendum?
- European Union citizens (other than those of Cyprus, Ireland, or Malta) resident in the UK;
- Scots of the ages of 16 and 17 can vote in Scottish elections, but are ineligible to vote on today's Brexit referendum;
- The estimated 2 million UK expats who have lived in other nations for more than 15 years;
How Many People Are Eligible To Vote?
It is estimated that over 46 million people are eligible to vote on the Brexit referendum, but turnout is not expected to be nearly that many. Severe storms and flooding have hit Remain strongholds in London and the vicinity, which may give the Leave side an edge. Backers of a Brexit have been on the whole more emotionally committed, and are less likely to let the weather deter them from voting.
What is Today's Brexit Referendum Timeline?
The Financial Times has a detailed article on when we can expect various developments today, and tips on what each district's vote may mean for the Leave and Remain sides.
Here are the highlights, with times converted from British Summer Time to Eastern Daylight Time in the US:
7am BST / 2am EDT: Polls open across the UK and in Gibraltar.
10pm BST / 5pm EDT: Polls close.
~12am BST / 7pm EDT: Polls results expected from low-population areas Gibraltar and the Isles of Scilly.
12:30 -1am BST / 7:30-8pm EDT: Results start coming in from the Western Midlands and London.
2am BST / 9pm EDT: Results from Northern Ireland and Scotland should start being announced.
4am BST / 11pm EDT: Many more districts in London should have reported results by now.
6am BST / 1am EDT: The last of the ballots should have trickled in, with news outlets proclaiming a winner.
7-8am BST / 2-3am EDT: The winner of the Brexit referendum should be announced.
If you're interested in when a particular locale will announce their results, this handy spreadsheet from the UK Electoral Commission will give you an estimate.
Where Are the Exit Polls?
There will be no official Brexit exit polls, and media outlets are constrained in what they can report until the polls close. However, some pundits have suggested to watch the movement in the pound sterling against other currencies for an advance hint on how the vote is proceeding. Various mega-banks and hedge funds have reportedly commissioned their own exit polls to get a jump on big trades before the official results are announced.
What Will The Result Of The Brexit Referendum Be?
Once again, any speculation on the effects the Brexit vote will have, domestically or otherwise, is just that -- speculation. Perhaps the safest prognostication would be that if the Leave side loses, they will keep pushing referendums until they get a win.
Another certain prediction is that there will be many thousands of upset voters Friday, when they realize that the results of the Brexit referendum are non-binding. Only an Act of Parliament can remove the United Kingdom from the EU.
The opinions and forecasts herein are provided solely for informational purposes, and should not be used or construed as an offer, solicitation, or recommendation to buy or sell any product