So finally, here we are. After a long and brutal campaign, the UK votes on whether it wants to remain a member of the European Union or not. Polling stations are open from 7 AM in the morning until 10 PM at night. Unfortunately for journalists like me, there won’t be any exit polls during the day, the BBC is prohibited from reporting on the potential outcome whilst polling booths are still open. “Otherwise, this could be seen as a means for trying to influence the outcome”, a BBC producer told me on Wednesday when I came in for a short live on World News.
For many journalists, referendum day itself will be quiet. I will finish two pieces for Friday just in case and set up some last minute interviews. And then, it’s just waiting, speaking to colleagues, and maybe saying a prayer. According to the weather forecast, Thursday will see a lot of rain, especially in the morning and early afternoon. That might keep some voters from making the move to the polling station, a fact that could potentially help the Leave-side, given that they are said to be much more enthusiastic about their course than the Remain-side.
It will take a while until we get a sense of direction. Markets are not expected to move too much (or sideways) on Thursday. That might change from around 1 AM onwards. According to the Independent, Newcastle and Sunderland will be amongst the first results to declare. Both are strong Labour areas so they could provide a clue as to whether Jeremy Corbyn has succeeded in convincing his party to vote Remain. At 1:30 AM, Stirling, the first big Scottish city, is set to declare. In case there is no big win for Remain, the country might be heading for Brexit. At 2 AM, Oxford and Basildon are announced, followed by Hammersmith and Eurosceptic Torbay at 3 AM. An hour later, it’s Birmingham’s turn. Until 7 AM, there will be more and more results coming in. At 7 AM, the Electoral Commission expects the final four results.
By then, I should be able to observe how markets react to the outcome of the referendum. For many traders and money managers, it will be a long night. Banks have prepared by calling people in for different parts of the night, hedging risky investments and creating back stops. Some traders have already told me that they will be doing an “all-nighter”, a phenomenon normally limited to the world of investment banking. “I will stay all night”, a senior trader said to me on Wednesday, “until noon, when I’ll go home to crash into bed.”
Whatever the outcome, it’s going be interesting. Let’s see what time I get to sleep on Friday.