LONDON, United Kingdom, Jun 24 – The battle over Britain’s future in the European Union turned into a white knuckle ride Friday as early results from a historic referendum showed a greater-than-expected chance of the island nation leaving the 28-nation bloc.
Sterling plummeted as investors feared a historic blow against the alliance, an economic and political force created 60 years ago out of a determination to forge lasting peace from the carnage of two world wars.
After months of banking on Britain remaining in the bloc, major bookmakers changed their odds dramatically as results flowed in – first making the “Leave” option a strong favourite and then switching again minutes later to give a slight edge to “Remain”.
With results in for only 84 of the 382 areas that took part across Britain, the final result was on a knife edge with heavyweights including London yet to be declared.
At the all-night Lexington Bar in central London, jittery punters cheered whenever “Remain” appeared to regain the upper hand.
“This is incredibly close. We have no idea where this is going to go,” said 33-year-old “Remain” supporter Beverly David.
A record 46.5 million people had registered to vote, many of them braving torrential rain and floods to take a momentous decision after a highly charged battle over immigration, the economy and Britain’s very identity.
“It’s far more confused. It does look very close so that makes the prediction even more difficult,” said London School of Economics professor Kevin Featherstone.