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Time to mark your 'X'

12:00am | & News

After months of campaigning, speculation, political point scoring and heated debates, the big day is finally here.

Polling stations opened at 7am and will remain open till 10pm tonight as the UK holds its long-awaited EU Referendum. At some point tomorrow, we will finally know if most Britons want to remain a member of the European Union or want to leave and go it alone.

Millions of UK citizens will be able to place their cross next to their preferred option to "Remain a member of the European Union" or "Leave the European Union". For the hundreds of thousands still undecided it will be the moment of truth, and whichever way the vote goes it will be a historic day for the UK. 

Not since May 1975 – more than 40 years ago – has the Great British public been given a say on whether their nation should be part of a European alliance. And back then it was a very different question , as it referred to the EEC, the original European 'Common Market'. The European Union of today is a very different beast, much more far-reaching and powerful. It routinely exerts influence over many areas of people's everyday lives in it member states, far beyond simply regulating trade.

Critics say the EU is evolving into a "European superstate", swallowing up the sovereignty of its member states, overruling their laws and making their parliaments little more than toothless talking shops. Their opponents claim the opposite is true, that there is strength and security in numbers and that member states are safer and more prosperous within the EU.

The so-called "Brexit" (British exit) debate has divided communities and even households, and been portrayed as a generational issue. In broad terms, pre-referendum research shows that younger people, who did not experience or cannot remember life before the EEC, tend to favour remaining in the EU, perhaps fearing the unknown?

Meanwhile, older people, who have experienced life outside the EU, seem to favour leaving, possibly looking back through rose-tinted glasses to the 'good old days' and blaming the EU for all the woes of contemporary life?

Campaigning on both sides of the argument has also been blamed for its negativity. Instead of focussing on the claimed advantages of remaining or leaving, campaigners have instead issued a series of dire warnings about the dangers of either option. Accusations of scaremongering have been levelled at both sides. While the 'remain' campaign claim the UK economy will crumble if we leave, their opponents claim Britain will be swamped by uncontrolled European immigration if we stay.

So now, after all the arguments, the prophecies of doom, the televised debates and mountains of campaign leaflets, the big day is finally here. Now it is up to you to decide and, unlike General Elections, every vote really will count in this referendum.

So whichever way you vote, just make sure you do, because you might never have another chance.

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