UPDATE, 12:35 AM: After gambling his political future and power base on the UK voting to remain in the EU, British Prime Minister David Cameron today announced that he will be stepping down after the Leave side won the referendum.
“I do not think it would be right for me to be the captain who steers the country to its next destination,” Cameron said in front of 10 Downing Street early Friday morning in London. “We should aim to have a new Prime Minister in place by the Conservative party conference in October,” he added, saying the nation needed “strong leadership.”
Cameron’s fellow Conservative and ex-London Mayor Boris Johnson is widely expected to run for the leadership — a prize the author and MP has long had his eye on. Johnson was a leading advocate for Brexit and picked up strong support in the parliamentary parry during the referendum campaign.
The outcome of the EU decision has seen the British pound plunge to its lowest one-day fall since 1985, when Margaret Thatcher was PM. Stock markets worldwide have seen declines as well in reaction to the Brexit result. Perhaps hoping to offer a stabilizing voice, Cameron also said this morning in his brief speech that nothing has changed immediately in the UK’s relation to the EU and negotiations on the country leaving will not start until a new PM is in power.
PREVIOUSL, 8:55 PM: Europe is in shock tonight and the contentious Brexit debate in the United Kingdom is now over: The UK will end its association with the Continent after 43 years as a slim, but decisive majority has voted in favor of Britain leaving the European Union. The BBC reported shortly after 8:45 PM Pacific that Leave passed the threshold for victory with 13,933,272 votes, leading the pro-EU faction by nearly a million votes, well in advance of the 16M votes needed to officially cinch victory. Final results confirmed the win shortly after 10 PM Pacific.
British Parliament will still have to confirm the results of the referendum, but conventional wisdom holds that it is unlikely Parliament will overrule the majority. Either way, Albion is in for a rocky near future.
The win comes despite early post-vote polling that showed a slight majority against Brexit.
Early in the process, Leave pulled ahead of a slim Remain advantage, and kept it. At 7:23 PM Pacific (3:23 Greenwich), Leave was leading Remain by 250,000 votes with just under half the total votes counted. 30 minutes later, Leave was up by just under 500,000 votes. Though it appeared at first that those numbers may have been in part due to speedier returns from Britain’s smaller boroughs, even some of the UK’s major cities ultimately pivoted pro-Brexit as the gap between Leave and Remain widened over the night.
The results come despite the efforts of some of Britain’s most prominent citizens lending their voices to the pro-European Union cause. Jeremy Clarkson, David Beckham, Benedict Cumberbatch, J.K. Rowling, film and television industry legend Lord Puttnam, Working Title’s Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner, Slumdog Millionaire producer Christian Colson, The King’s Speech producer Iain Canning and James Bond producer Barbara Broccoli among others spoke out against Brexit in the days preceding the vote.
Though Leave carried the day, the victory is unlikely to bring an end to the fight that has gripped the UK for months. The economic fallout in particular is sure to linger as the news reaches global financial markets that anticipated the opposite outcome. An early sign of problems to come, as the tide turned to Brexit the Pound lost value fast as investors dropped it in favor of the Yen. By 8:39 PM Pacific, the Pound was down 13% against the Yen and reached it lowest point since 1985 according to the Wall Street Journal. Anticipating a volatile day in the wake of the news, Nikkei Futures trading was halted.
The shocking move is also very likely to impact the entertainment industry stateside as doing business in Europe has become far more complex than it was at the start of the day. Deadline will have our full analysis of that potential impact early in the morning.
There may also be severe political fallout along with the economic. England strongly favored Brexit, but Scotland and Northern Ireland both voted overwhelmingly in favor of staying in the Eurozone. (Wales was initially reported as pro Remain, but as the final votes were confirmed the region was 51% Leave.) Scotland narrowly avoided secession from the UK in a 2014 referendum, and while getting the matter back on the ballots will be difficult, it’s likely today’s vote will exacerbate tensions that undermine unity of Britain’s constituent nations.
The post has been edited after publication as new information became available.