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Voting Day Arrives In Britain For Brexit Referendum

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Let's hear a little bit from NPR's Frank Langfitt. He is on the other side of the Atlantic covering the historic vote today in the United Kingdom. Citizens across the country are casting ballots in a referendum on whether the U.K. should leave the EU. A vote to leave would have profound political and economic impact for Great Britain and also for the EU. The polls say this vote is too close to call. And Frank Langfitt, you're at a polling station in North London I gather.

FRANK LANGFITT, BYLINE: Yeah, good morning, David. I'm at a church in Islington. It's a middle-class neighborhood. Young families are coming in. People are riding their bikes in. It's a pretty diverse neighborhood, also, and pretty left-leaning.

GREENE: Left-leaning. And tell me what that means in the context of this vote and what people are saying.

LANGFITT: Well, it means for a lot of people it's a vote to stay in. People here feel closer to Europe. A lot of them travel to the continent, and they sort of have a more internationalist point of view. They'd like the U.K. to be part of the - of Europe and also part of the world. Now, I was talking to a guy named Peter Isabel (ph). He's a 35-year-old graphic designer, and this is how he sees it.

PETER ISABEL: I think we do things for the good of the world, not just the country. It's being quite selfish just wanting to be on our own. And we're isolating ourselves from the rest of the world.

GREENE: OK. So Frank, you say that this is a place where many people have that point of view. Are there people who are voting to leave you've come across?

LANGFITT: Well, here there are a few. There's a guy I also ran into. He's also named Peter, Peter Hudson (ph). He's 53. He used to run a taxi company here. And from his point of view, and you hear this around the country, that the EU just has too much power. And Brussels, the home of the EU, they have a lot of people there who U.K. people feel were not elected by them. And they have a big say in how the economy operates. And this is how Peter Hudson - how he put it.

PETER HUDSON: I think that the U.K. will be better off if we leave. I think every country, including the United States, have the right to self-rule, to make their own laws and to govern themselves.

GREENE: You're in the land of Peters there, Frank Langfitt.

LANGFITT: Indeed (laughter).

GREENE: So any thought - I mean, I know it sounds like, you know, you get a sense for how people are voting in that area. But nationwide, any thought on how this vote's going to go? Everyone is saying it's really close.

LANGFITT: It looks very, very close. You know, the bookies who traditionally are the most reliable here, they think it's going to be a vote to stay in. But if you look at the polls in recent days, one or two percentage point difference, so it doesn't really matter. We've also seen, in the last seven days, a real seesaw. There was an MP named Jo Cox. She was pro-EU. She was murdered by a citizen here, and that really upset people and in the middle of a heated referendum. And so the leave camp felt that this sort of stopped their momentum.

But we've also had rain earlier today. It's cleared up at the moment here in Islington. But the concern is that that could actually depress the vote to remain because people in remain are not as motivated as people who want to leave. This is really their issue. We're going to find out a lot more tonight. They're going to be voting the ballots by hand. And then we'll find out early Friday morning what has happened.

GREENE: All right. That is NPR's Frank Langfitt. Frank, thanks a lot.

LANGFITT: Happy to do it, David. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.