Brexit jolts Britain, EU as Cameron quits

By Andy Bruce and Costas Pitas
1 / 8

Polls close in Britain's historic EU vote

Voting has finished in the historic referendum on British membership of the European Union.

A British vote to leave the European Union has sent shockwaves through the United Kingdom and Europe, forcing British Prime Minister David Cameron to resign and spurring calls for similar votes in other nations in an already troubled EU.

Leave won 52 per cent of the vote and Remain won 48 per cent, marking the first time that a country has decided to leave the EU.

The vote comes at a time when the union is also dealing with internal tensions about its migration crisis, as well as with high unemployment and growing anti-EU sentiments among the European public.

"The will of the British people is an instruction that must be delivered," Cameron said in London on Friday as he announced that he would resign by October.

"I will do everything I can as prime minister to steady the ship over the coming weeks and months, but I don't think it would be right for me to try to be the captain that steers our country to its next destination," he said.

Cameron had fought for remaining in the EU by arguing that a so-called Brexit would hurt Britain's economy. He faced off with Brexit supporters from within his own Conservative Party.

The mostly Conservative Vote Leave platform and the right-wing UK Independence Party had lobbied for a Brexit, arguing that this was the only way to protect Britain's sovereignty and control EU migration.

"Let June 23 go down in our history as our independence day," UKIP leader Nigel Farage said.

However, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said the government would try to keep as many trade ties with the world's largest economic bloc in place as possible as it renegotiates its relationship with the EU.

He also warned that Britain was already now a "semi-outsider," even though the divorce process is only set to be launched by Cameron's successor.

The leaders of the European Union's 27 other countries are "determined to keep our unity," EU President Donald Tusk said, while warning against "hysterical" reactions.

"Today, on behalf of the 27 leaders, I can say that we are determined to keep our unity as 27," Tusk added.

The leaders would conduct talks without Cameron during a summit in Brussels next week, Tusk said, adding that he would push for a wider reflection on the bloc's future. Foreign ministers of the EU's founding nations are also set to discuss the matter in Berlin on Saturday.

On Monday, Tusk will travel to Paris and Berlin to hold talks with French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel respectively, according to an EU source.

In another sign of potential trouble ahead, Scotland First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said a second Scottish independence referendum is "highly likely".

Scotland had voted for Remain by a large majority.

"As things stand, Scotland faces the prospect of being taken out of the EU against her will. I regard that as democratically unacceptable," she added.

"I think an independence referendum is now highly likely."

Irish nationalist party Sinn Fein said the British government had "forfeited any mandate" to represent the interests of Northern Ireland, where a majority also voted to remain.

Early on Friday, the pound fell below the 1.35-dollar level for the first time since 1985. Several other stock indices plummeted

Most cities in north-eastern England returned large majorities for Leave after Thursday's vote, while Scotland and Northern Ireland overwhelmingly voted for Remain.

Several London areas also voted strongly for Remain, with 79 per cent opting to stay in the EU in the city's south-eastern borough of Lambeth, as national turnout averaged 72 per cent.