Guide to UK Referendum Night

The UK referendum on EU membership takes place on Thursday, 23 June. It affects all UK sovereign territory within the EU – thus the UK (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) and the overseas territory of Gibraltar; but not the Isle of Man, Jersey, Guernsey or territory outside Europe.

Votes are counted immediately after close of poll; initially they are verified (to ensure the right number come out of the box as were placed into it by voters), and then counted. They are declared in England, Scotland and Wales by local authority area (of which there are 380), in Northern Ireland by constituency (18), and in Gibraltar. However, it is only the overall (UK and Gibraltar) result which counts.

Academic work has been done (for example by APCO) to identify the parts of the UK which are most likely to be typical; i.e. where the result would be 50:50 if the overall poll were 50:50. Even this is difficult. Who knows really which areas these are? What if turnout is particularly higher in areas which favour one side or the other? What if “Eurosceptic sentiment” is unreliable as to actual voting intention? We can only guess, really.

The night will proceed roughly as follows, assuming local authorities have their timings right (in practice they may be a little optimistic):


There are no exit polls.

There will be a survey by YouGov similar to the Scottish independence referendum; it was a little more than one point out on that occasion. However, unless there is a surprise landslide, we will really know very little at this stage.


Sunderland [E] should be the first local authority declaring, and it should probably be for Leave if Leave is to win (though there may be regional discrepancies).

Around this time we should also hear from the City of London [L], Wandsworth [L] and Foyle [I], which should be handily for Remain but are atypical and give little by way of real guidance.


There should be early declarations from Gibraltar [G], a raft of Northern Irish constituencies, and perhaps some in the north east of England for Remain.

Some other north east English authorities should declare for Leave during this period. We may also have the first from the West Country (Swindon [E] which should be for Leave) and North West England (Oldham [E], also expected to be for Leave but may be close).


Around now we should get the first declarations in Scotland, as well as others in urban Northern Ireland and London, for Remain. There may be others in the Home Counties and Wales too at this stage.

Some in more rural Northern Ireland and North West England may begin declaring for Leave.

One to watch is Salford [E], expected to be a “bellwether”.


Now much of London and Scotland, as well as places like Oxford [E]and Cambridge [E], should have declared handily for Remain.

Urban and suburban England and Wales should also be declaring now for various sides.

Watch places like Oadby & Wigston [E], High Peak [E], Bridgend [W], Monmouthshire [W], Enfield [L] and Moray [S] which are bellwethers but should largely go Remain if it is to win; or Anglesey [W], Epsom & Ewell [E], Worcester [E], Bury [E] and St Helens [E], most of which Leave would need in order to expect victory.

Remain should be ahead at this stage if it is to win; being behind, unless it is by a sizeable margin, does not yet mean the end of the story for Leave.


Now English Councils more favourable to Leave should be declaring in proportionately greater numbers – Leave-leaning bellwethers include Lancaster [E], Portsmouth [E], Derbyshire Dales [E] and the biggest of all Birmingham [E].

Remain will find its lead being eaten into at this stage, but will hope to hold on in bellwethers such as Harrogate [E], the Vale of Glamorgan [W] and Lewes [E].

Wiltshire [E] is a big, mixed rural and urban area declaring about now too – if it is for Remain, it is almost certain to win.


Unless it is very close, we should have an idea now.

If it is very close, Leave would want to be winning bellwethers declaring now such as Tewkesbury [E], Cotswold [E] and Cheshire West & Chester [E].

Remain would be hanging on to a lead and hoping to increase it narrowly in bellwethers such as South Oxfordshire [E] and Amber Valley [E].


By now, Remain would hope to have been declared the winner; Leave would hope to be ahead (the votes to come should still favour it, however). If neither of these is the case, it is very very close.

If clinging on, Remain would need to win bellwethers such as Rutland [E] and Windsor & Maidenhead [E]; unless there are marked regional discrepancies, places like Leicester [E] and Bristol [E] should add to any lead.

Leave still has good places to come but would need to close the gap narrowly in places like Harborough [E] and Cheshire East [E], while closing it considerably in places like Wealden [E] and and East Lindsey [E].

0730 – RESULT

About now, if all has gone to plan, we should have the full result. There are no recounts and just being one vote ahead across the UK and Gibraltar suffices for victory.

Let the ramifications begin…!

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