Brexit referendum: Leave camp wins historic poll with small margin

Ballots from the cities of Westminster and London are counted at the Lindley Hall in London on June 23. PHOTO: EPA
People wait in line to cast their ballots at a polling station in Gibraltar, historically claimed by Spain, June 23, 2016. PHOTO: REUTERS
Ballot boxes arrive for the City of Westminster at the Lindley Hall in London on June 23. PHOTO: EPA
Manchester Town Hall, the setting for the national count in the EU referendum. PHOTO: EPA

LONDON - The Leave camp has won Britain's historic referendum with 52 per cent of votes in a closely watched poll that sent panic through financial markets on Friday (June 24) and saw the pound plunging to a 31-year low.

The pound was hammered on Friday on growing market fears of a Brexit, or Britain leaving the EU. Asian stocks indexes were also whipsawed on heavy trading volume as results showed fine margins between the two camps.

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One of first official results of the UK referendum on whether to leave the European Union welcomes an early first victory.

Early results on Friday morning showed a slight lead for those who support leaving the EU, but the Remain camp overtook briefly, before falling behind again.

The pound plunged early morning after the north-eastern city of Sunderland, a closely-watched city, voted 61 per cent to leave the EU, a stronger-than-expected result.

Other places which voted to leave include Nuneaton, Blackpool, Wellingborough, Southend-On-Sea, Kettering, Bury and Broxbourne.

Results from the knife-edge poll on Thursday were closely watched in Europe and the rest of the world.

The first result came from the British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar where an overwhelming 96 per cent of voters chose to stay within the EU.

The result was hardly surprising, as the territory was widely expected to vote to stay. It saw a huge voter turnout of 84 per cent.

With a population of about 32,000, Gibraltar, which borders Spain in the north, was once under Spanish rule until it was ceded to Britain in 1713. Now mostly self-governed with its own parliament, it is one of the richest areas in the EU, with an economy built on tourism, financial services and shipping.

Places like City of London, Glascow, Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Belfast West voted to remain in the EU.

Mr Nigel Farage, leader of the anti-EU UK Independence Party, said the campaign for Britain to remain in the EU might just win the referendum,

Speaking after results from Newcastle and Sunderland were announced, Mr Farage said the vote was "clearly very tight".

"Right now, if you ask me what is going to happen I think that Remain might just nick it," he told Sky News.

The national result is expected at 7am local time (2pm Singapore time) at the earliest and Prime Minister David Cameron will likely make a speech shortly after the result is announced.

Mr Cameron has urged Britons to vote to remain in the EU, warning that exiting the bloc would be a leap into the dark that would hurt trade and investment and bring about a recession.

But advocates of a so-called Brexit said it would invigorate the economy by freeing business from suffocating EU bureaucracy, and allow the country to recover its sovereignty and regain control of immigration.

Britain's 27 EU partners are anxiously watching the vote, fearing a Brexit would weaken Europe's global clout and fuel the rise of eurosceptic movements in other countries.

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