EU referendum: what time will we get the results?

It's been 41 years since the British people last had a choice about the country's membership of the EU, but when polls close at 10pm tonight, it will be a few hours more before we all find out exactly what we've decided.

Thursday, 23rd June 2016, 11:48 am
Updated Thursday, 23rd June 2016, 12:52 pm

At last year’s general election, the moment David Dimbleby appeared on TV screens, attention turned to an exit poll that turned expectations of a knife-edge result on their head and predicted a clear Tory victory.

This time however, there will be plenty of punditry at bedtime but no firm clues as to the result.


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Unlike in national elections, broadcasters will not conduct exit polls because the margin of error for such an unprecedented event is too large.

YouGov will publish a poll for pundits to chew over based on responses from a pre-selected group of people shortly after polling stations close.

So when should you set your alarm for to know what the result is? Votes are being counted broadly along local authority boundaries, with 382 separate counts across the UK and 32 in Scotland. Once those local results are reported, they will feed into 12 regional and national announcements.

A flurry of local declarations is expected between 2am and 5am, including estimated times as below:-

Havant 3am

Portsmouth 3.30am

Fareham 4am

Gosport 4am

East Hampshire 4am

Chichester 4.30am

Winchester 6.30am

But while the local declarations may offer some of the drama of a general election, it won’t necessarily make the final result immediately clear before the expected announcement of the national totals at around 7.30am tomorrow, half an our or so after the collective result for the south east is expected to be declared in Southampton.

In a referendum, every vote has the same value, regardless of where it cast. However, there will be a few key indicators to look out for.

“Scotland and London are expected to vote to remain, come what may,” says John Curtice, the president of the British Polling Council. “If Scotland is close to 50/50, you can go to bed because we’re out of the EU. The same is true of London.”

In the rest of England, the key areas for Remain are large urban centres, but also smaller cities with large populations of students and graduates. Leave will be looking closely at results from areas with older populations and lower levels of educational attainment, particularly in coastal east and south-east England.

“To be honest, you don’t have to know much more than where Ukip has done well. If they vote to remain, it’s all over,” says Curtice. Boston, where a result is expected at 3am, will be top of that list.

Broadcasters have crunched numbers from a huge amount of survey data to create models of how each area would be expected to vote if the national result was a dead heat. As local tallies come in, there should be an indication of “which way the wind is blowing,” according to Curtice.

But, he warns, there are many parts of the country “where you would expect the result to be close to 50/50”, so it will be calculators at the ready since the only real indicator will be the total vote number of votes for Leave and Remain.

What that means is that depending on how close the result is, David Cameron is expected to make a statement on the steps of Downing Street in time for the breakfast news bulletins. What he will say is, until tomorrow morning, anyone’s guess.