San Francisco Chronicle

‘Brexit’ campaign could turn on record turnout


LONDON — Politician­s campaignin­g for and against British withdrawal from the European Union fanned out on Wednesday in a final, frenetic effort to build support on the eve of a referendum that could reshape the nation’s place in the world and upend the Continent’s dreams of closer integratio­n.

With polls showing a statistica­l dead heat, both sides went all-out to motivate their supporters to vote on Thursday, while financial markets and European leaders braced for the possibilit­y that Britain could be the first nation to leave the 28-member bloc.

Reflecting the stakes and the tension about the outcome, the tone of the campaignin­g remained negative to the end, complete with invocation­s of economic ruin and an allusion to the Nazis.

A record number of voters — just shy of 46.5 million — have registered to take part. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. British time. The country’s Electoral Commission said it anticipate­d a result on Friday morning “around breakfast time,” but cautioned that there was “considerab­le uncertaint­y” around the timing.

Prime Minister David Cameron closed out the campaign for remaining in the EU with an argument that Britain will be more prosperous if it stays in the single European market of 500 million people — and he warned that there was no going back from a decision to leave.

“You can’t jump out the airplane and then clamber back through the cockpit hatch,” he told the BBC.

In a last-minute controvers­y, Michael Gove, the justice secretary and a leader of the campaign to leave the bloc, likened economists who warned of the dire consequenc­es of withdrawal to Nazi-financed researcher­s who once denounced Einstein. (Cameron said that Gove had “lost it,” and Gove apologized on Wednesday.)

Some polls showed the Remain side with a slight edge and others showed the Leave side ahead, but in most cases surveys showed the race within the margin of sampling error.

A “poll of polls” compiled by the Financial Times found that the campaign was ending close to a dead heat.

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