David Cameron resigns after UK votes to leave EU
LONDON — The UK has voted to leave the European Union in a historic referendum that triggered the resignation of British Prime Minister David Cameron and wreaked havoc on global markets.
There was a mixture of jubilation and disbelief in the UK as people awoke Friday to the final verdict in the extremely close vote that deeply divided the nation.
Europe was plunged into uncertainty following the result, with calls for further referendums from emboldened far-right groups who see it as a boost for their anti-EU, anti-immigration policies.
It also reverberated across financial markets, with London’s FTSE 100 index plunging by more than 8% at the open on the heels of sharp losses in Asia.
Within hours of Thursday’s ballot outcome — 51.89% in favor of leaving the EU, with 48.11% against — Cameron delivered an emotionally charged statement outside the door of 10 Downing Street, announcing his intention to stand down.
Scottish break up?
He said that “the British people have voted to leave the EU and their will must be respected… the will of the British people is an instruction which must be delivered.”
“There can be no doubt about the result.”
Cameron gave no timetable for his departure, but said that he wanted a new leader to be in place by October when his Conservative Party holds its annual conference.
Boris Johnson, a former London mayor who campaigned for the UK’s departure from the EU, is tipped by bookmakers as Cameron’s likely successor.
Johnson, who was greeted by a booing crowd when he left his home on Friday morning, thanked voters for their decision, pledged that the UK would remain committed to Europe and urged unity.
“I think the electorate have searched in their hearts and answered as honestly as they can,” he said. “They have decided to vote to take back control from a European Union that has become too remote.”
In Scotland, where support was overwhelmingly in favor of remaining in the EU, Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s First Minister and leader of the dominant Scottish National Party, said the outcome threw into doubt the future of her country’s place in the UK.
She said she intended “to take all possible steps and explore all the options” to remain in the EU, raising the prospect of a new Scottish independence referendum.
The pro-independence Sinn Fein party in Northern Ireland also called for an Irish unity referendum — taking Northern Ireland out of the UK.
As European leaders faced their own crises, German Chancellor Angela Merkel stressed the “need to make sure that European people feel that the EU wants to improve all our lives.”
She said she greatly regretted the UK’s decision, but added: “The EU is strong enough to find the right answers today.”
Passions continued to run high in the UK in the hours after the vote, with pro-independence UKIP party leader and Leave campaigner Nigel Farage declaring the EU a “dying” institution.
“We’ve given ourselves the chance to rejoin the world,” he told journalists. “June 23rd needs to become a national bank holiday and we will call it Independence Day.”
The referendum followed one of the most divisive political campaigns in recent memory. Polls had consistently shown voters split down the middle, with the outcome too close to call ahead of the referendum.
But news of the decision sparked strong emotions, with those in favor and those against reflecting on a campaign marred by allegations of lies, distrust and hate.
“This is so sad,” said Daniel Trilling on Twitter. “Millions of people aren’t going to feel any more in control of their lives or their country because of this vote.”
“People vote on emotion,” another Twitter user, @cemanthe, posted. “This was won on false promises and emotive texts about immigration. Not on facts.”
“I am SO happy this morning,” wrote another, Gemma.
An online petition calling for a second referendum gathered more than 120,000 signatures within hours of being posted.
Leading political figures gave mixed reactions.
Tony Blair, the former UK prime minister, called the decision a divided result.
“It’s going to be a complicated process but it’s important to bring our country together and stabilize our country,” he told CNN’s Becky Anderson. “It’s still a resilient country and it’s a strong country.”
Sadiq Khan, the mayor of largely pro-EU London said that the decision was a “clear message” and urged calm.
European Council President Donald Tusk said the decision was “historic, but not a moment for hysterical reactions.
“Today on behalf of the 27 (European) leaders, I can say that we are determined to keep our unity as the 27. For all of us, the union is the framework for our common future.”
U.S. President Barack Obama has been briefed on the results and expects to speak to Cameron later in the day, the White House said.
Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee for the U.S. presidential elections, hailed the UK’s decision to “reassert control over their own politics, borders and economy.”
In a news conference Friday as he attended the official opening of a remodeled golf resort bearing his name in Turnberry, Scotland, Trump called the decision of the voters “a great thing.”
“They’re angry over borders, they’re angry over people coming into the country and taking over, nobody even knows who they are,” he said. “They’re angry about many, many things. They took back control of their country.”
Markets start freaking out
The shock development will have profound implications for markets and economies around the world.
Along with the FTSE’s disastrous opening, the pound at one point plunged more than 12% to below $1.34, its lowest level since 1985. Japan’s Nikkei tanked 6.7%, and Hong Kong’s main index dropped 3.7%.
Stock futures indicate that markets in New York will also tank when they open for trading. Dow futures are down more than 500 points.
Bank of England Governor Mark Carney said that the body is “well prepared” and “won’t hesitate” to take additional measures as markets adjust.
The “UK financial system is resilient,” he added.
Results have sparked a global markets sell-off. London stock futures are trading 7% lower and stock futures in the United States are down 2%, CNNMoney reports.
The pound is dropping sharply against all major currencies, and is currently trading at 1.37 against the dollar. Oil is down 4%.
Gold — one asset investors turn to in times of uncertainty — is up.
British Foreign Minister Philip Hammond said Britain’s voice in Europe will be greatly diminished and that the events would “change the course of British history with huge consequences.”
Speaking to CNN’s Richard Quest, Italian Finance Minister Pier Carlo Padoan acknowledged the risk of a domino effect following the vote.
Far-right Dutch politician Geert Wilders congratulated the UK on its decision, and called for a Dutch referendum on EU membership.
“We want to be in charge of our own country, our own money, our own borders, and our own immigration policy,” he was quoted as saying in a statement on his website.
“If I become prime minister, there will be a referendum in the Netherlands on leaving the European Union as well. Let the Dutch people decide.”
Marine Le Pen, the leader of France’s National Front party also congratulated the Brexit side. Her party has suggested that the French would also hold an “out” referendum if she assumed the presidency. France is holding presidential elections next year.