The Latest: Heavy rains hit London, could hurt vote turnout


LONDON (AP) — The Latest on Britain’s referendum on whether to leave the European Union (all times local):

5:35 p.m.

Rain and thunderstorms are causing canceled trains and slow journeys in the London area as people travel home from work.

Southeast England was hammered by up to 1.75 inches (4.6 centimeters) of rain overnight — roughly the average for all of June — and another band of rain swept through on Thursday afternoon.

Signal failures caused by flooding shut down sections of the London Underground subway system and several train lines into the capital. The Rail Delivery Group says train services will be severely disrupted Thursday evening and people should head home early if they can.

The disruption could hit the turnout for Britain’s referendum on whether to stay in the 28-nation European Union as many people go to polling booths after work. The polls close at 10 p.m. (2100GMT).

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5:10 p.m.

Italy’s finance minister says whatever British voters decide, there’s already a fracture with the European Union.

Minister Pier Carlo Padoan is being quoted as saying at a forum in Rome on Thursday that no matter what happens, it will be impossible to assert “let’s pick up as if nothing” happened.

The Italian news agency ANSA quoted him as saying that as Britons vote to decide whether to exit or stay in the EU, that “the fracture has already happened and in a very clear-cut way.” Padoan said the consequences will vary, depending on the outcome, but “there won’t be the same path as if there hadn’t been the referendum initiative.”

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4:15 p.m.

The European Union’s migration commissioner has described the British people as an “integral part of our European family” as voters decide whether to remain in the bloc.

Dimitris Avramopoulos told a finance conference near Athens that “this … is one of the most crucial moments of modern European history.

“The citizens of the United Kingdom, an integral part of our European family, are deciding whether they want to remain or exit our common European home.”

Europe’s migration crisis played a prominent role in the campaigning ahead of Thursday’s referendum by those who want Britain to leave the EU.

Avramopoulos said: “Let’s be frank: Europe found itself unprepared in the middle of an unprecedented migration and refugee crisis.” He added that the number of arrivals by migrants and refugees in the EU this year had been drastically reduced by tougher border policing and a deportation agreement with Turkey.

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2:20 p.m.

The founder of anti-secrecy site WikiLeaks plans to host a live, online punditry show about Britain’s referendum on whether to stay in the EU.

Julian Assange has been holed up in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London since 2012.

He is wanted for questioning by Swedish police over rape allegations stemming from his visit to the country in 2010. He denies all the accusations against him made by two women.

The Australian recently said he was “pretty much” in favor of Britain leaving the European Union, arguing that its membership was holding the 28-nation bloc back.

Guests billed for Assange’s show include Greece’s ex-finance minister Yanis Varoufakis, musician Brian Eno and “former CIA officers.” It is scheduled to run from 1900 GMT Thursday until early Friday morning, when referendum results are expected.

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2:10 p.m.

England soccer captain Wayne Rooney isn’t following David Beckham’s lead in announcing how he voted in the referendum about whether Britain remains in the European Union. Or even if he voted at all.

Asked Thursday if he voted, Rooney said, “I’d like to keep that private.”

Speaking at England’s training base north of Paris during the European Championship, Rooney said, “The option has been there for the players (to vote during the tournament) — I don’t know which ones have, which ones haven’t.”

On Tuesday, Beckham, a former England captain, said he would be voting for Britain to remain in the European Union, highlighting how his successes with English club Manchester United owed much to European players and how welcoming he later found playing soccer for continental clubs.

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1:25 p.m.

A sense of uncertainty seemed to hang over central Edinburgh in Scotland as voters pondered how a vote for Britain to leave the European Union might affect the Scottish independence movement.

Some believe a British decision to leave the EU bloc in Thursday’s referendum might trigger another Scottish vote on independence like the one that fell short in 2014.

Clayton Thomson, a 30-year-old bar manager, said Scottish nationalists might call another referendum if a “leave” vote takes Scotland and the rest of Britain out of the European bloc.

Retiree Robert McCallum, 84, also believes a British exit, or Brexit, would increase calls for Scotland to sever its ties to Britain.

The popular Scottish National Party, which spearheads the Scottish independence movement, advocates keeping Britain inside the EU.

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1:15 p.m.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel says the European Union should respond in a calm and inclusive way to whatever result emerges from the British referendum on EU membership.

Merkel said after meeting her Austrian counterpart in Berlin Thursday that she doesn’t favor discussing the consequences in small groups of EU countries. She said: “overall, I think discussions must now be continued with 28 (countries) if possible and otherwise with all countries — that would be 27 — but my hopes are pinned on it possibly being able to remain 28.”

She noted that an already-scheduled EU summit starting next Tuesday will give countries “the opportunity to discuss all together and calmly how we continue to implement our agenda.”

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1 p.m.

Denmark’s prime minister says “it would be a tough job” to work out what would happen if British voters decide to leave the European Union.

Lars Loekke Rasmussen says work would start Friday, adding he hopes for “a peaceful divorce” should Britain leave the bloc that it joined at the same time as Danes in 1973. The Scandinavian nation has opted out of parts of EU treaties for fear of losing sovereignty but it has no plans for a membership referendum.

Norwegian Foreign Minister Boerge Brende, whose country twice has rejected EU membership, wrote Thursday on Twitter “Fingers crossed for (hashtag) remain.”

The oil-rich nation has signed up to the European Economic Area agreement and thereby access to the EU’s huge single market.

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12:30 p.m.

Hungary’s foreign minister says it would be against the interests of his country and of the European Union for Britain to leave the EU.

Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto on Thursday described Britain as a “pragmatic voice” in the debate about the future of the EU, often in line with Hungary’s vision of the 28-member bloc, adding that its exit would be “contradictory” from a political and economic perspective.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban earlier this week bought a full-page ad in a British newspaper The Daily Mail, to say that “Hungary is proud to stand with you as a member of the European Union.”

An estimated 300,000 Hungarians live in Britain.

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11:55 a.m.

An opinion poll conducted on the eve of Britain’s referendum shows a narrow lead for those who want Britain to remain a part of the European Union.

Polling firm Ipsos MORI says the “remain” camp enjoyed a four-point lead ahead of the vote. But the polling firm’s chief executive, Ben Page, says 13 percent of those polled said they still might change their minds.

The poll of 1,592 people was conducted for the Evening Standard newspaper and was completed Wednesday night.

Page said Thursday that heavy rain in London may affect the vote, because the British capital is seen as a “remain” stronghold.

Recent opinion polls in Britain have been unreliable.

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11:40 a.m.

Betfair says momentum has moved to the “remain” camp in a referendum on whether or not Britain will remain in the European Union.

The betting market says the probability that the country will remain now stands at 86 percent, with a British exit or Brexit given just a 14 percent chance. Betfair says some 55 million pounds ($80 million) has now traded on the market, making it their biggest market to date. Their previous high was the 2012 U.S. presidential election at 40 million pounds.

The FTSE 100 gained 1.5 percent in early trading to 6,355.64, buoyed by sentiment that the uncertainty caused by a potential Brexit may be receding.

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10:40 a.m.

The British pound and stock markets are rallying in morning trading in Europe, an indication that investors are betting that Britain is more likely to vote to “remain” in the European Union.

The pound was up 1.1 percent on the day, at $1.4874, the highest level so far this year. Britain’s benchmark stock index, the FTSE 100, was up 1.6 percent at 6,362. Germany’s DAX was up 2.2 percent at 10,297.

Experts say that an exit from the EU would hurt the pound as well as global stock markets, at least in the short term.

While exit polls are not allowed to be published during Thursday’s vote, which closes at 10 p.m. (2100 GMT) some financial companies have reportedly commissioned private exit polling services to help guide their trading.

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10:30 a.m.

Germany’s biggest-selling newspaper has an offer for the British: stay in the European Union and we’ll stop making jokes about Prince Charles’ ears and reserve you places by the hotel pool in the morning.

The mass-circulation Bild daily dipped into decades of clichés about British-German relations for its front page Thursday, headlined “Dear Britons, if you stay in the EU …”

Among the offers: “We won’t use any sun cream at the beach any more — out of solidarity with your sunburn!” And “we’ll push through an EU directive banning foam on beer!”

Topping the list was an offer that would stick in any Germany soccer fan’s throat: “Even we will recognize the Wembley goal!” That’s a reference to England’s third goal in its 1966 World Cup final victory, which Germans maintain didn’t cross the goal line.

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9:05 a.m.

Voters in parts of Britain are facing floods and torrential downpours as they cast their ballots in a referendum on whether or not to remain in the European Union.

The capital, London, is expecting a month’s rainfall in a few hours Thursday. Overnight thunderstorms flooded some streets, homes and businesses. Commuters also suffered disruptions.

London’s Fire Brigade says it received hundreds of calls related to the weather, including reports of lightning strikes and rising water that trapped vehicles.

The Environment Agency has issued four flood warnings and 22 flood alerts across the southeastern part of the country.

Sunny weather is predicted for much of the rest of the country.

Pollsters say turnout will be a critical factor in the vote. A large turnout will favor the “remain” campaign as those who waver at the end tend to go for the status quo.

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9 a.m.

Prime Minister David Cameron has cast his ballot in the referendum on whether or not Britain will remain in the European Union.

The Conservative leader had headed the campaign to have Britain stay in the 28-nation bloc.

The leader of the opposition Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, also cast his ballot in the referendum, which is considered historic because it will have an impact on generations to come.

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7:15 a.m.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull says there will be a big impact on the global economy if Britain votes to leave the European Union.

“It would be a very big shock, there is no doubt about that. … There will be obviously be great efforts to ensure that the consequences of that shock are minimized,” Turnbull told reporters.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop told reporters it is in Australia’s “national interest for a strong Britain, an indispensable friend and ally of ours, to remain within the European Union.”

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7 a.m.

Polls have opened in Britain for a referendum on whether the country should quit the European Union bloc it joined 43 years ago.

More than 46 million people are registered to vote in Thursday’s plebiscite, which asks: “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?”

Polls are open until 10 p.m. (2100GMT), with results due early Friday.

The referendum has exposed deep divisions over issues including sovereignty and national identity.

“Leave” campaigners claim that only a British exit can restore power to Parliament and control immigration. The “remain” campaign led by Prime Minister David Cameron argues that Britain is safer and richer inside the 28-nation EU.

Financial markets have been volatile ahead of the vote, as opinion polls suggested a tight race.

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