Brexit: The highs and lows of the referendum campaign

Taking a look back at what has been a lively, divisive and often strange campaign...

Brexit: The highs and lows of the referendum campaign

Ukip leader Nigel Farage and Kate Hoey on board a boat taking part in a Fishing for Leave pro-Brexit "flotilla" on the River Thames, London. Image: Stefan Rousseau / PA Wire/Press Association Images

After what has been a long, lively and very heated campaign, voters in Britain are today deciding on whether or not they should leave the European Union. 

Sadly, a dark shadow hung over the campaign in recent days following the death of MP Jox Cox. The killing was condemned by leaders across the political spectrum, and campaigning was suspended for three days.

With the vote looming, campaigners resumed their efforts on Sunday and made their final arguments for and against the UK's membership of the EU. Here's a look back at some of the key events from the lead-up to today's vote.

David Cameron calls the referendum

David Cameron makes a statement outside 10 Downing Street in London. Image: Tim Ireland / AP/Press Association Images

On Feburary 20th, British prime minister David Cameron confirmed a referendum would be held on 23rd June - fulfilling a pledge he made ahead of last year's general election. It came after returning to Brussels having achieved what he described as an "historic" deal on the UK's future relationship with Europe.

Key elements of the deal include agreements over welfare payments to migrants, Britain's right to opt-out of the eurozone, and a promise the UK would have stronger sovereign control over laws made in Brussels.

Boris Johnson join the Leave campaign

Boris Johnson addresses supporters at a Vote Leave meeting at the Centre for Life in Newcastle | Image: Owen Humphreys / PA Wire/Press Association Images

The then London mayor Boris Johnson made headlines in February when he announced his support for a Leave vote. The controversial but popular Conservative politician’s decision gave the Leave campaign a high-profile figurehead, and dealt a definitive blow to Conservative prime minister David Cameron and his Remain campaign.

Johnson’s position was only reinforced in April when his Vote Leave group was named as the main voice calling for a Brexit in the referendum.

Remain takes the lead... Leave takes the lead

A poll of polls shows a majority of voter surveys had a narrow gap between Leave and Remain. Those in favour of staying in the EU probably felt they had the edge, though, with one poll in May suggesting they had a lead of around 18 points. Earlier this month, however, there were likely some startled Remain supporters when one ORB poll showed Leave enjoying a significant ten-point lead over their rivals.

‘Breaking Point’

UKIP leader Nigel Farage launching the controversial EU referendum poster campaign. Photo: PA Images

On June 16th, UKIP leader Nigel Farage unveiled his instantly infamous ‘Breaking Point’ poster. It was criticised by both Remain and Leave supporters: Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon described the poster as "vile and racist".

The outrage culminated with Conservative Sayeeda Warsi opting to defect from the Leave to the Remain camp. She said: "That 'breaking point' poster really was, for me, the breaking point to say: 'I can't go on supporting this'. Are we prepared to tell lies, to spread hate and xenophobia just to win a campaign? For me, that's a step too far.”

‘The Battle of the Thames’

Easily the most memorable campaign event, there was something deeply surreal about flotillas of Leave and Remain supporters facing off on the River Thames. It was a heated exchange at times, and photos showed some Remain boats being blasted with water by Leave vessels.

Ultimately, though, the incident was as amusing as it was weird, with Bob Geldof on one side of the protest and Nigel Farage on the other.

Boris Johnson auctions off a cow

OK, so the Battle of the Thames had some competition...

The fluctuating pound

There were a number of much more literal ups and downs during the campaign. The pound sterling took a hammering on a number of occasions amid fears over a possible Brexit. It rose again earlier this week as investors responded to opinion polls which indicated an increase in support for the Remain side.

Who knows what the markets will bring over the coming days when the British electorate actually make their decision...

Michael O’Leary’s antics

The head of Ryanair has a reputation for over-the-top stunts - and his ‘intervention’ in the referendum campaign was no different. The company launched a Brexit seat sale, and unveiled some of its planes carrying a 'Remain in EU' message for British voters. In case any of that didn’t make it abundantly clear…

Ryanair CEO Michael O'Leary in London urging Britons to vote Remain in the EU referendum | Image: Ryanair

Keep up to date with our special Brexit programme on Newstalk from 10pm until midnight tonight, with coverage continuing through the night via LBC radio London. Find all the latest stories and analysis on Newstalk.com, and you can also follow @Newstalkfm@ShonaMurrayNT and @newschambers for up-to-the-minute updates