After a night of counting the votes, it was revealed at exactly 06:00 BST this morning that Britain had voted to leave the EU. Prime Minister David Cameron has announced that he is stepping down by October, saying:
“I fought this campaign in the only way I know how – which is to say directly and passionately what I think and feel- head, heart and soul. I held nothing back. I was absolutely clear about my belief that Britain is stronger, safer and better off inside the European Union. And I made clear that the Referendum was about this and this alone – not the future of any single politician, including myself. But the British people have made a very clear decision to take a different path. And as such, I think that the country requires fresh leadership to take it in this direction. “
The referendum has seen the highest turnout at a UK-wide vote since 1992 – 71.8% with more than 30 million people voting. 51.9 % of those voted to Leave by 48.1%. While England and Wales voted strongly for Britain to leave the EU, London, Scotland and Northern Ireland strongly disagreed with Brexit.
UKIP Leader Nigel Farage, who has been campaigning for Britain to leave the EU in the past two decades, said that today would “go down in history as our independence day”.
As the UK heads for Brexit, the pound has fallen dramatically hitting a 30-year low and plummeting to $1.3236 at one stage earlier this morning. In the opening minutes of trade, the FTSE 100 Index fell more than 500 points before regaining some ground.
Laith Khalaf, Senior Analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown comments: ‘Global stock markets have taken a Brexit hit, with European markets actually falling more than the Footsie. Safe haven assets have soared as investors sought security, with gold rising 5% and UK bond yields plunging to historic lows.On the stock market, banks and housebuilders have been hit particularly hard this morning as markets try to factor in the Brexit effect on the UK economy.Sterling has fallen to its lowest level for over 30 years , which will mean holidaymakers heading abroad in the coming weeks will have to dig extra deep to buy foreign currency.Investors should carefully consider their plans and avoid a knee-jerk reaction. The coming days are likely to be choppy on the stock market as it digests the ramifications of Brexit, and further falls are possible.However markets will bounce back at some point, and investors who switch to cash risk buying back into the market at a higher level, and ending up in a worse position than if they had just stayed put.’
Bank of England governor Mark Carney said this morning that: “Some market and economic volatility can be expected as this process unfold. But we are well prepared for this. The Treasury and the Bank of England have engaged in extensive contingency planning and the Chancellor and I have been in close contact, including through the night and this morning.
“The Bank will not hesitate to take additional measures as required as markets adjust and the UK economy moves forward.”
As the Article 50 two-year deadline approaches following the referendum results, David Cameron will be put under pressure to “steady the ship” over the coming weeks. Remain campaigners believe that it is possible that the Brexit could result in reverting to trading with the EU under World Trade Organization rules, which would involve exporters being hit by import taxes or tariffs.
After all 32 local authority areas in Scotland returned majorities for Remain, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said that the referendum results make it “clear that the people of Scotland see their future as part of the European Union”.
Germany’s foreign minister Frank Walter Steinmeier commented that today is “a sad day for Europe and Great Britain”.