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UK opinion polls indicate shift towards a vote for Brexit in June referendum

New opinion polls in the UK have indicated a move towards voting to leave the European Union in the upcoming referendum. The value of the UK currency fell on the news.

One online and one telephone poll for the Guardian newspaper showed the "Out" campaign three points ahead of the "In" supporters.

The polls were conducted over three days to Sunday and followed official figures announced the previous Thursday that British net migration had hit the second highest level on record in 2015.

Polling agency ICM said the polls published on Tuesday gave the "Out" campaign its first lead in one of its telephone surveys. To date, telephone polls have tended to give the "In" campaign a comfortable lead.

Surprise in the City

The result came as a surprise to traders in London's financial district and the UK currency fell to a one-week low against the US dollar. "Widespread selling for sterling and an immediate flight to safety signifies the fact that markets have been caught napping with an overconfidence that every poll would come out in favor of the 'remain' campaign," said Joshua Mahony, market analyst at IG. Within minutes of the poll announcement, the UK pound fell by a cent to $1.45.

ICM's latest weekly online poll showed voters favoring Britain leave the EU up to 47 percent against 44 percent wanting to stay. In the telephone poll 13 per cent said they did not know, while in the online poll 9 per cent were undecided.

"Our poll rather unhinges a few accepted orthodoxies," ICM's director Martin Boon said. "It is only one poll, but in a rather unexpected reverse of polling assumptions so far, both our phone poll and our online poll are consistent on both vote intentions and on the EU referendum." A high turnout is also indicated..

An opinion poll published on Monday for the Daily Telegraph newspaper showed support for the "Out" campaign rising but still trailing the "In" vote.

British bookmakers still think a "remain" vote is the more likely outcome to the vote on June 23.

jh/jm (Reuters, AP)

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