29th Feb 2024

Grey skies, calm streets as London votes on EU membership

  • Memorial to Jo Cox outside British parliament in London (Photo: EUobserver)

Voting on EU membership in the UK capital began amid a calm atmosphere on Thursday (23 June) morning.

A plane with a banner that said “Vote Remain” made circles over the River Thames in central London.

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  • "I can't think of any positives now off the top of my head," said Simon Grey, musician (Photo: EUobserverver)

A South African couple on a Thames tourist boat wore red, white and blue badges that said “I’m In”, also referring to ongoing EU membership.

"Unfortunately we can't vote, so the least we can do is a bit of promotion", one of the two, who declined to give their name, told EUobserver.

But they were among the few signs that British people were about to make a decision that could alter the course of European history.

There were no billboards or street rallies.

The skies were still grey after a night of thunderstorms.

Heavy rains had caused flooding in some areas in London and south-east England and caused severe disruption on public transport for early birds who wanted to cast their ballots as soon as voting opened at 7AM local time.

There were fears that bad weather could cause a low turnout, which would favour the Leave side.

Prime minister David Cameron and his wife Samantha cast two votes for the Remain side at a small polling station near to the houses of parliament at 9AM.

By noon, some 300 people had cast their votes at the same place - the usual number to be expected, officials said.

Simon Grey, a musician, had just cast his vote when EUobserver spoke to him. "It's all the money that we pay [to the EU] that’s the worst. Really, I can't think of any positive things [about the EU] just now off the top of my head," he said.

Sahira Yakub, a staff member at a large corporation, told this website that she would vote after she had finished work.

"I am on the fence," she said.

“For me the EU has contributed much good for the environment, but I also find that some changes are needed. I don't like the idea of being run by a superstate. Perhaps it would be good to stir up things a bit”, she added.

The EU is well known for its election mentoring missions in former Soviet Europe or in Africa.

But on Thursday, three Ukrainian monitors came to the Westminster station to keep an eye on due process.

"It's our third election observer mission here [in the UK] and so far everything looks fine”, Maksym Zvizlo, one of three monitors, said.

Elsewhere in the heart of London’s political district, people stopped to lay flowers at a memorial for Jo Cox.

The pro-EU and pro-immigration MP was savagely murdered last week by a man who later told judges he wanted to protect British independence.

The voting is to continue until 10PM tonight. The first results will come in from Gibraltar and the Scilly Isles at midnight.

But the first big town to report will be Sunderland in north east England, where Leave is expected to have a solid lead.

The overall result is likely to be clear by 3.30AM.

But in the absence of exit polls, people, including bank staff on nightshifts in the City of London, will be watching the behaviour of international currency and equity markets to get an earlier clue.

Hedge funds are expected to have conducted private exit polls and to trade on the information.

If the pound rises in value, that indicates the Remain side is in the lead. But if it starts to fall, the Leave side is likely on the up.

Brexiters also vote in EU-friendly Scotland

All Scottish parties and two thirds of the population back EU membership. But voters met by EUobserver show that the Leave campaign was not completely ignored.

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Pro-EU leaders failed to produce a positive message, but voters may choose to stay in the EU becaue they would not want to "live in Nigel Farage's Britain," EU expert Charles Grant said.


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