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Leave or stay? Simple query to Britons has the world watching

Leave or stay? Simple query to Britons has the world watching

London: "Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union - or leave the European Union"? This is the verbatim text of a question for which voting in Britain started on the dot at 7 a.m. on Thursday - an event being watched nervously the world over.

But the result, based on two options - "Remain a member of the European Union" or "Leave the European Union" - are only expected a day later at around breakfast time on Friday.

This means, in India, it will be around 11.30 a.m., or over two hours into trading in the country's bourses, that the result could be declared.

Officials explained that the long wait is on account of two factors. First, the voting was to end only at 10 p.m. local time. Then, the process calls for results being declared at every stage: At local and regional levels, before the final counting at Manchester.

There are 382 local counting areas and 12 electoral regions, comprising Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales, London and eight English regions.

Also, 46,499,537 people are registered to take part in this crucial vote.

Interestingly, some idea of the outcome, if any, is likely only after the counting at Birmingham, home to a sizeable Indian population.

Britain has been a member of the European Union since 1973 even as it has its own currency and visa system.

This is only the third nationwide referendum in Britain's history and comes after a four-month battle for votes between the "Leave" and "Remain" campaigns. The voters are from England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Gibraltar -- a British territory, off the southern coast of Spain.

The process, though, is evoking much interest. The Electoral Commission is forecasting that turnout could be as high as 80 per cent -- significantly more than the 66 per cent who voted in last year's General Election.

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