Voters in the United Kingdom have begun casting ballots to decide whether or not to stay in the European Union, in the first referendum on the country’s links with Europe in more than four decades.
Opinion polls were too close to call after a divisive campaign that dominated headlines for months as politicians on the “leave” and “remain” sides sought to sway the U.K.’s 46.5 million eligible voters.
British Prime Minister David Cameron issued an impassioned appeal to national resilience to reject a so-called Brexit, telling the nation that “Brits don’t quit.”
Much of the debate has hinged on the economy, immigration, and what some perceive as overbearing EU bureaucratic control over issues better left to individual states.
An average of polls compiled this week by What UK Thinks showed the “remain” camp with a razor-thin lead — 51 percent versus 49 percent for “leave” among those who have decided.
The issue emerged in the run-up to last year’s general election, when Cameron promised a referendum on EU membership if he won reelection. His pledge came in response to growing calls from his own Conservatives and the populist and anti-immigration U.K. Independence Party (UKIP), who argued the country had not held a public consultation on the issue since 1975.
On June 22, Cameron outlined his vision for a future with Britain retaining its place in the 28-nation bloc of more than 500 million people.
Cameron has repeatedly criticized the EU for losing touch with British citizens, but has said he favors Britain helping reform the EU from within.
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