EU Referendum: What time will we know the result? Plus Q&A and everything else you need to know

An unusual polling station in Suffolk
An unusual polling station in Suffolk
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After weeks of argument, claim and counter-claim, voters go to the polls on today to decide the outcome of the referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union.

Here’s how it works:

Across the UK and Gibraltar more than 41,000 polling stations will be open on Thursday. More than 100,000 people will be working in polling stations.

Millions will already have voted by post and those who forgot to send it will be able to take it to their polling station.

When the polls closed, the votes will be counted in 382 separate areas, in most cases corresponding to council districts.

Once all the votes have been verified and counted in a district they will declare their local result.

The regional results will be collected at Manchester Town Hall where the official national result will be announced

TIMELINE

• 7am: Polls open.

• 10pm Polls close.

• 1am (estimate) - National turnout figure revealed.

• 2-3am (estimate) - Individual districts began to announce their results.

• 4am (estimate) - If there is a clear gap between Leave and Remain it is about now that voting experts will begin to forecast the winner.

• 5-6am (estimate) - Regional results expected to be announced, closely followed by the national result.

REFERENDUM Q&A

Everything you need to know about polling day and its immediate aftermath.

• What happens when everyone has cast their votes?

When the polls close, counting will begin across the UK. The country has been divided into 382 voting areas, each of which will declare its own result. The overall result for the whole of the UK will be announced only when all 382 areas have declared.

• If the UK leaves the EU, will UK citizens need special permits to work in the EU?

If the government imposes work permit restrictions, as UKIP wants, then other countries could reciprocate, meaning Britons would have to apply for visas to work.

• Would leaving the EU mean we wouldn’t have to abide by the European Court of Human Rights?

The EU is wholly separate from the European Convention of Human Rights, which does, on rare occasions, assert that convicted criminals have – for example – the right to family life, and so can stay in the UK.

• How much does the UK contribute to the EU and how much do we get in return?

The net cost of membership per week is £120m - not £350m, as emblazoned on the side of the Vote Leave battle bus. Still not a figure to be sniffed at, but a sum many believe access to the single market more than compensates for.

• Could we have free trade with the EU without freedom of movement?

Access to the single market cannot be achieved without hosting any Pole, Italian or Spaniard who wants to pitch up in your country. Norway – not part of the EU – has had to accept as much. So too Switzerland. The single market, with its total lack of cross-border tariffs, represents the epitome of free trade. Despite its pleasant-sounding name, a “free trade agreement” would be no more than a knock-off version of this, likely to involve restrictions on Britain’s financial services industry, at the least.