What Happens at Britain’s EU Referendum: An Explainer

A woman holds a Union Flag shopping bag in London, Britain April 23, 2016. Credit: Reuters/Kevin Coombs

A woman holds a Union Flag shopping bag in London, Britain April 23, 2016. Credit: Reuters/Kevin Coombs

Britain holds a referendum on membership of the European Union on June 23. The following are details of how the referendum will work on the night.


Voters will be given one piece of paper with the question:

“Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?”

They will be asked to put a cross beside either:

  • “Remain a member of the European Union”
  • “Leave the European Union”

Who can vote?

All those who are entitled to vote in a UK parliamentary general election can vote in the referendum, including British, Irish and qualifying Commonwealth citizens over the age of 18 who are resident in the UK.

UK nationals resident overseas who have appeared on a parliamentary election register in the past 15 years will also have the right to vote, as do Irish citizens who were born in Northern Ireland and registered to vote in Northern Ireland in the last 15 years.

In addition, Peers and citizens of Gibraltar who were able to vote at a European Parliamentary election can vote.

When can people vote?

The deadline for registering to vote is midnight on June 7. Polling stations open at 0700 BST on June 23 and close at 2200 local time.

Will there be an exit poll?

There are currently no plans by broadcasters for an exit poll as the margin of error is deemed to be too large.

When will the results come?

Votes will be counted by hand and the count will begin as soon as polls close (apart from in Gibraltar when counting will begin at 2300 local time, or 2200 UK time). Each of 382 local counting areas will count the number of ballot papers and announce local turnout figures in each of the areas.

Then each counting area will count the votes and announce local totals for each of the 382 areas. These will be collated into regional totals, and then a final, national, result. A final result will be announced in Manchester by Jenny Watson, who is the Chief Counting Officer.

Reuters will provide full coverage of the results.