â€˜Dividedâ€™ Kingdom leaves EU; Cameron to step down
Shock vote for Leave in the UK, Cameron announces he will step down in October
The United Kingdom has made a momentous decision by voting to leave the European Union in a closely-fought and historic referendum. The Brexit side won 52 per cent of the vote in a high-turnout referendum that overturned opinion polls predicting a close contest with Remain retaining a marginal advantage.
This is the second referendum on Britainâ€™s relationship with the European project. In 1975, in a referendum on whether the U.K. should stay or leave the European Community (Common Market) Area, the country voted for staying in with a resounding 67.2 per cent vote.
Prime Minister David Cameron, the architect of the referendum and a passionate supporter of Britain within the European Union announced that as a measure of respect for the â€œwill of the peopleâ€ he would be stepping down as prime minister in October.
â€œThe British people have made a very clear decision to take a different path and as such I think the country requires fresh leadership to take it in this direction,” Mr. Cameron said in a brief but emotional address in front of 10 Downing Street.
Prior to the start of counting, 84 Tory members of Parliament from both sides of the divide called for Mr. Cameron to continue as prime minister after the results were announced to see the transition through.
The referendum saw a turnout of 72 per cent, the highest since 1992. In 382 local authorities, Leave won 17, 410,742 votes and Remain 16, 141,241.
The markets have predictably reacted sharply to the referendum result with the pound falling to its lowest since 1985. Other major currencies have also shown volatility, especially the Euro that has seen its worst fall against the dollar.
In a statement on Friday, Bank of England Governor Mark Carney said he â€œwould not hesitate to take any additional measuresâ€ to ensure the stability of the monetary and financial markets.
A leading investment analyst told The Hindu that in the short term there will be considerable caution and lower confidence on spending and investment. â€œBritish Airways has just put out an announcement saying they expect lower profits this year because of Brexit-related slowdown in traffic. In the longer term in general we could see some degree of movement of operations of certain companies to Europe, but it also depends on what the market believes will be the ultimate outcome of the negotiations with Brussels.â€
The country has received the news of the referendum with both jubilation and disappointment. A grim-faced Jeremy Corbyn told television channels that all efforts must be made to protect jobs and working condition in Britain. He said negotiations with Brussels must start immediately for â€œthe best deal possible” to protect British industries.
A jubilant Nigel Farage called for a bank holiday to be announced on Monday to celebrate â€œindependence day.â€
The results show that but for London (Remain 59 per cent), Scotland (62 per cent) and Northern Ireland (55 per cent), the rest of the UK, and Wales, a region that has seen de-industrialisation and the consequent loss of jobs, voted for Leave.