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20 June 2016

What to look out for as the EU referendum results come in

Your hour-by-hour guide.

By Stephen Bush

It’s that time again, folks:  your handy guide from the New Statesman to when you can expect results from the European referendum and what they mean for the overall results.

First: a disclaimer. We haven’t had a referendum on European membership since 1975. We have no idea what turnout will be and crucially if turnout will be wildly different throughout the country. The margin for error here is large, but these are useful hitching-posts throughout the night – or, at least, as useful as I can make them at this stage.

22:00: Close of poll. There will not be a lot to report on at this stage.

There won’t be an exit poll although I imagine a few of the pollsters might decide to chance their arms on doing an on-the-day one. However, these are very far from the all-singing, all-dancing exit polls that the BBC, Sky and ITV pay for on election night and are much, much less reliable. So don’t start celebrating/mourning/selling sterling just because Survation or whoever suggest that we’ve voted to Leave.

My advice is to use this time to stock up on vital supplies: fast food, dips, fizzy drinks and hard liquor. (And also, given the increasingly Leavy-y tilt of the polls, canned goods and bottled water.) Also open the New Statesman liveblog and switch onto ITV. I will be popping up on both throughout the night.

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23:00: There’s an old joke from Spitting Image that will be appropriate at this time. “Nothing has happened,” opines the Conservative early on in election night. “That’s not true,” exclaims his Labour counterpart, “A lot has happened.” “It’s the same old two-party story,” sighs the Liberal Democrat, “Actually, a little bit has happened.”

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Tell it at home and have them rolling in the aisles.

0:00: Results from Gibraltar and the Isles of Scilly will come in. Although the actual numbers of votes are very small, in percentage terms this ought to be Remain’s high watermark. As far as victory margins are concerned, it will be all downhill from here.

00:30: Sunderland and Newcastle-upon-Tyne will declare. Leave should be well clear of Remain in Sunderland if Brexit is indeed going to happen. Anything short of a seven-point gap between Leave and Remain in Sunderland is very good news for Britain Stronger In Europe.  Newcastle is finely balanced but ought to be better for Remain than Sunderland.

It is entirely possible that Leave could lead at this point and still lose.

00:45: Remain ought to get a big win out of City of London – that is, just the area around London Wall and the City, not the whole city, which will declare in stages throughout the night. London’s financial district has just 7,000 permament residents but they trend Remain. 

The bigger prize in terms of votes Swindon, a marginal in general elections but a fortress as far as Brexit is concerned. At this point in the evening, I’d expect a Leave lead.

01:00: Oldham and Darlington will declare. It’s not necessarily all over for Leave if they don’t have an overall lead at this point but it would be a bad sign for them if they weren’t ahead at this point.

01:30: Peak Leave? In percentage terms, at any rate, they should be well up by the time that Basildon, Hartlepool, North Hertfordshire, Stockport, Salford and Merthyr Tydfil  declare. Only the tiny, in population size if not in length of name Comhairle Nan Eilean Siar is likely to return a Remain lead, and that should be more than cancelled out by results elsewhere.

I can’t say with absolute certainty that if Leave don’t lead at this point in the night they’ve lost, but their chances of victory will be narrowed if they aren’t out in front at this point.

02:00: The first big batch of Scottish results, from Clackmannanshire, North Ayrshire, Stirling, the Shetland Islands, East Ayshire and Angus ought to get Remain back in contention. Also likely to run up the score for Remain: Wandsworth, Westminster and Warwick.

Keeping Leave in the race should be Denbighshire and Blaenau Gwent, Neath Port Talbot, Dover, Pendle, Hart, Tamworth, South Tyneside, and Wrexham.

Anyone with a clear lead at this point can feel cheerful but not home and dry just yet.

02:30: We should start to be able to say who’s winning the referendum around about now, as areas around the country start to declare. Wth looking out for Crawley, Enfield, while Castle Point is in contention to provide Leave with one of its largest margins of victory.

03:00: Results will be coming thick and fast, including Jeremy Corbyn’s stomping ground of Islington. The winner should be clear unless it’s a nail-biting finish although I doubt the broadcasters will feel safe in saying so for a few hours. Oxford, one of the contenders for Remain’s biggest victory margin of the night, declares.

03:30:  Edinburgh and Cambridge will duke it out to be the biggest Remain backers. Elsewhere, expect conversations to turn to David Cameron’s coming reshuffle or the looming Boris Johnson premiership depending on which sideis ahead at this point.

04:00: My birthplace of Tower Hamlets is increasingly riddled with hipsters, which means it should give Remain a fairly big win. But the big contender for Remain’s best area – at a tempting 16/1 with the bookmakers – is Brighton and Hove.

04:30: The bulk of Britain’s remaining big cities to bolster my metropolitan snobbery by voting for Remain by a heavy margin unless it is a landside for Leave.

05:00: Most of London will have declared by this point – if it is close, this could be the moment when Remain wins, or it could be the moment when the many balding men of Brexit can breathe a sigh of relief.

06:00: Allegedly Bristol will declare at this point. Bristol counts are notoriously slow so I am dubious. We will know who has won by this point, regardless.