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Photograph: freeimages.com/Krzysztof (Kriss) Szkurlatowski

The deadline for people in Britain to register to vote in a referendum on EU membership has been extended, the electoral commission said, after a technical glitch left thousands of people unable to sign up before the deadline of midnight on Tuesday.

The deadline was extended by 48 hours on Wednesday. Prime Minister David Cameron said urgent discussions were held between the government and the electoral commission prior to the announcement.

"If you aren't registered and you want to vote in this EU referendum you should continue to register," Prime Minister David Cameron said on Twitter.

"Huge demand caused a system overload last night," he said.

The electoral commission said technical problems affected the final two hours of registration for the referendum, which takes place on June 23.

"No one should miss out on voting in this historic referendum because of the problem with the government's registration website last night," Alex Robertson, the commission's communications director, said in a statement after the extension.

"We are urging everyone who is not already registered to vote to take this last chance to do so before the end of Thursday," Robertson said.

Opposition leaders, including Labour's Jeremy Corbyn, had also called for the extension of the deadline for registration.

Some 45 million people are eligible to vote in the referendum, but many people are not expected to register or may register but not use their vote.

About 1.6 million people have registered online since the government began its campaign on May 15.

Several experts have forecast turnout of around 60 per cent, but Sky News on Wednesday quoted an electoral official as saying local authorities have been asked to prepare for a turnout of up to 80 per cent.

Voters will be asked the single question: Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?

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