At 7am on 23 June, the polls will open and millions across the country will trickle into town halls, churches, schools and community centres to cast their vote in the EU referendum.
National plebiscites are a rare beast in UK politics. This will be only the third since 1973: The second on Europe following the 1975 ballot and the second under David Cameron following the 2011 referendum on the use of the Alternative Vote.
While the rough and tumble of the campaign may have felt like any old General Election, the way results day works is a little different. The Electoral Commission has now announced the times it expects the results to start coming through (below), so here are the key bits you need to know about the vote, and when we'll know which side has come out on top.
On the day
Every polling station across the country will open at 7am and close at 10pm. The polling station you have to go to is shown on the poll card sent to your registered address, you need to turn up with this and then go into the booth and answer the question.
Unlike in a general election, there will only be two options on the ballot paper. The question will be worded:
Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?
– Remain a member of the European Union
– Leave the European Union
Like normal, voters should mark an 'X' in the box next to the option they would like to place their vote for, and drop the voting slip into the ballot box.
If polling stations get busy around closing time, voters will still be able to cast their vote after 10pm, as long as they were inside the polling station – or in the official queue to get in the polling station – by 10pm.
After the polls close
This is where the action begins.
Polls will slam shut at 10pm and the count will begin soon after.
There will be no exit poll, unless broadcasters and pollsters cobble together a last minute deal, though the commentary and analysis will begin immediately. With the media ban on reporting details lifted, both sides will be able to say how well they think they have performed.
Unlike a general election, there are no constituencies. Every vote counts towards the overall final result with the side which gets the highest absolute number of votes being declared the winner.
Nevertheless, results will be announced town-by-town and region-by-region, until the final nationwide result is confirmed at "breakfast time" on Friday 24 June from Manchester Town Hall.
Of the 400-odd electoral regions announcing results, the vast chunk will come in the small hours of the morning, with TV screens' running totals of how each side is doing going up quickest between 2am – 5am.
|Time||Expected number of results|
|1am – 2am||48|
|2am – 3am||61|
|3am – 4am||135|
|4am – 5am||109|
The first results will be declared at around 12.30am, there are three towns in the running to claim the honour of the first declaration:
- Foyle, Northern Ireland
- Sunderland, North East
- Wandsworth, London
The City of London is scheduled to be the fourth area to announce its result at 12.45am.
When will each town declare its results?
When will we actually know the result?
It's hard to say for certain when the result will come clear, because there is some discrepancy over the importance of various factors such as turnout along with only rough ideas about how each region will split.
Sometime between 3.30am – 5am seems like a good bet as to when we will be fairly confident which side is out out top – assuming one of them has a clear lead. The closer the vote, the later the result.
There is, of course, the small chance that it will be too close to call and recounts may be needed, which could delay the final result.
With no deal making or hung-parliament type option, it's not mathematically impossible that it could even be a tie.