Europe

The Latest: Australian leader urges Britain to stay in EU

  • Flags fly outside Europe House, the European Parliament's British offices, in central London, with European flag, right, and Britain's Union flag, Tuesday June 21, 2016. A national referendum on Thursday June 23, will dictate if Britain will leave the European Union, or remain part of the EU bloc.  (Lauren Hurley / PA via AP) UNITED KINGDOM OUT - NO SALES - NO ARCHIVES

    Flags fly outside Europe House, the European Parliament's British offices, in central London, with European flag, right, and Britain's Union flag, Tuesday June 21, 2016. A national referendum on Thursday June 23, will dictate if Britain will leave the European Union, or remain part of the EU bloc. (Lauren Hurley / PA via AP) UNITED KINGDOM OUT - NO SALES - NO ARCHIVES  (The Associated Press)

  • A sign points towards a referendum polling station in London, Wednesday, June 22, 2016. Britain votes whether to stay in the European Union in a referendum on Thursday. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

    A sign points towards a referendum polling station in London, Wednesday, June 22, 2016. Britain votes whether to stay in the European Union in a referendum on Thursday. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)  (The Associated Press)

  • Tourists take a selfie backdropped by the Houses of Parliament in London, Wednesday, June 22, 2016. Britain votes whether to stay in the European Union in a referendum on Thursday. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

    Tourists take a selfie backdropped by the Houses of Parliament in London, Wednesday, June 22, 2016. Britain votes whether to stay in the European Union in a referendum on Thursday. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)  (The Associated Press)

The Latest on Britain's referendum on whether to leave the European Union (all times local):

7:15 a.m.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull says there will be a big impact on the global economy if Britain votes to leave the European Union.

"It would be a very big shock, there is no doubt about that. ... There will be obviously be great efforts to ensure that the consequences of that shock are minimized," Turnbull told reporters.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop told reporters it is in Australia's "national interest for a strong Britain, an indispensable friend and ally of ours, to remain within the European Union."

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7 a.m.

Polls have opened in Britain for a referendum on whether the country should quit the European Union bloc it joined 43 years ago.

More than 46 million people are registered to vote in Thursday's plebiscite, which asks: "Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?"

Polls are open until 10 p.m. (2100GMT), with results due early Friday.

The referendum has exposed deep divisions over issues including sovereignty and national identity.

"Leave" campaigners claim that only a British exit can restore power to Parliament and control immigration. The "remain" campaign led by Prime Minister David Cameron argues that Britain is safer and richer inside the 28-nation EU.

Financial markets have been volatile ahead of the vote, as opinion polls suggested a tight race.