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Results in Britain’s historic referendum trickle in

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People walk past a "Vote Leave" sign as they arrive to cast their ballots at a polling station in Belfast, Northern Ireland, on June 23, 2016. (AFP photo)

People walk past a “Vote Leave” sign as they arrive to cast their ballots at a polling station in Belfast, Northern Ireland, on June 23, 2016. (AFP photo)

Vote counting is under way in Britain after polls have closed in a polarizing referendum on whether to leave or to remain in the European Union (EU), with initial results suggesting the race is much closer than expected.

With results in from the first 15 counting areas out of 382 voting districts, those in favor of ending Britain’s 43-year membership were on 51.5 percent of the vote, while those wanting to stay in the EU were on 48.5 percent.

The Leave campaign did well in the North-East of England and Wales, and the Remain camp is ahead in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

“Wow. That could be a very big worry” for UK Prime Minister David Cameron, who is favoring the Remain side, Professor Simon Hix of the London School of Economics told reporters in London.

Opinion polls suggested a win for the Remain campaign, but a better picture will emerge in two to three hours as counting continues around the country.

UK Prime Minister David Cameron attends an event campaigning for people to vote to remain in the EU in Birmingham, central England, June 22, 2016. (AFP photo)

UK Prime Minister David Cameron attends an event campaigning for people to vote to remain in the EU in Birmingham, central England, June 22, 2016. (AFP photo)

Voting closed at 10: 00 PM local time for the referendum in which more than 46 million people were eligible to vote.

Meanwhile, Nigel Farage, head of the UK Independence Party and a prominent Brexit campaigner, said in an interview that it appears that Britain will stay in the EU.

“It’s been an extraordinary referendum campaign, turnout looks to be exceptionally high and looks like Remain will edge it,” he told Sky News.

He said his prediction was based on “what I know from some of my friends in the financial markets who have done some big polling.”

UK Independence Party (UKIP) leader Nigel Farage delivers an anti-European Union speech in London on June 22, 2016. (AFP photo)

UK Independence Party (UKIP) leader Nigel Farage delivers an anti-European Union speech in London on June 22, 2016. (AFP photo)

The referendum on whether to end Britain’s 43-year membership of the EU comes after four months of tense campaigning between the two sides.

Leave voters favor greater national sovereignty, while Remain voters seek to stay to improve the bloc and focus on the economic benefits.

Earlier on Thursday, the British pound rose to a record level for 2016 as people in the UK were casting their ballots.

Global stocks also rallied as investors bet British voters were likely to vote to remain in the EU.

The pound’s performance has been directly tied to Brexit poll results about whether Britain will vote to exit or remain in the bloc.

However, the pound dived in early Asian trading on Friday morning, as initial results of the referendum were announced.

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