LONDON — It looks as if Britain will remain in the European Union.
Polling stations closed at 10 p.m. U.K. time, and the results of the historic referendum are due at 7 a.m. local time on Friday. Although no exit polls were conducted, the latest opinion polls indicate that the Remain camp is ahead by a small margin.
According to a poll by YouGov, which asked 5,000 Britons how they voted on Thursday, 52 percent said they voted to remain part of the EU, while 48 percent voted to leave.
“The results are close, and it is too early to call it definitively,” said YouGov on its web site. “But these results, along with the recent trends and historical precedent, suggest a Remain victory is the more likely outcome.”
Both sides had been virtually neck-in-neck with Remain slightly ahead over the past week.
Nigel Farage, leader of Britain’s UKIP party, which had been doggedly campaigning for Britain to leave the EU, told Sky News late Thursday: “It looks like Remain will edge it.”
Some 46.5 million voters were eligible to take part in the vote, and the estimated turnout — on a day marred by rain showers and thunderstorms — was nearly 84 percent.
Ever since Prime Minister David Cameron announced the In/Out referendum known as Brexit earlier this year, the country has been bitterly divided, with scare-mongering among politicians and press on both sides of the debate, and campaigns becoming ever more shrill.
Votes will now be counted in 382 local areas in the U.K. and Gibraltar, with results declared during the night.
On Wednesday night the pound hit a 2016 high of $1.48, but later dropped down to $1.47 on Thursday, where it remains.
The fashion and retail worlds have been very clear about their position: In.
Earlier this week nearly 1,300 business leaders — British and otherwise — signed a letter to The Times of London voicing their support for the U.K. to remain part of the EU.
Signatories of the letter published on Wednesday include Christopher Bailey; Jo Malone; Anya Hindmarch; Michael R. Bloomberg, Sir Richard Branson; Paul Polman, chief executive officer of Unilever; Ivan Menezes, ceo of Diageo; Brian McBride, chairman of Asos.com, and Rakesh Kapoor, ceo of Reckitt Benckiser.
“Britain leaving the EU would mean uncertainty for our firms, less trade with Europe, and fewer jobs. EU membership is good for business and good for British jobs,” said the letter.
Separately, David and Victoria Beckham both took to social media to plump for the Remain camp, while Virgin airlines boss Branson took out a full-page ad in the Daily Mail, voicing his support for a European Britain.