Britain Stuns With Vote to Leave European Union

Prime Minister David Cameron to step down

Nigel Farage
Nigel Farage / AP
June 24, 2016

The United Kingdom has voted decisively to leave the European Union, forcing the resignation of the prime minister and sending a shockwave through global markets.

In a historic referendum, the Leave campaign captured 52 percent of the vote against the Remain camp’s 48 percent, with a win for Brexit advocates clear by early Friday morning.

David Cameron, who called the referendum and led the campaign to remain in the EU, announced he would step down as prime minister by October, saying that the nation needed "fresh leadership."

"I do not think it would be right for me to be the captain that steers our country to its next destination," he told reporters.

London's former mayor Boris Johnson, a member of the Conservative Party, is a leading candidate to succeed Cameron.

U.K. Independence Party leader Nigel Farage celebrated the decision as the U.K.’s "independence day."

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced it was "highly likely" her government would hold a second independence referendum, saying her country would not be severed from the EU "against our will." Scotland voted 62 percent to 38 percent to remain in the EU.

Britain’s decision to sever its 43-year membership with the EU jolted global markets. The pound plunged to its lowest level since 1985.

The U.K. now has a two-year window to renegotiate trade, business, and political links with the remaining 27 nations in the bloc. The step is unprecedented and thrusts EU member states into political and economic uncertainty.

Roughly 72 percent of the record 46.5 million people registered to vote in the referendum went to the polls.

The U.K. last held an a referendum on membership in a united Europe in 1975, with voters choosing overwhelmingly to ratify their place in the continental community.