British Prime Minister David Cameron has announced his resignation following the vote to leave the European Union. Out of an unprecedented turnout of 72% (the highest turnout since 1992), an impressive 51.9% voted to Leave over 48.1% who wanted to Remain, a majority of over a million people. In an emotional speech Cameron told the nation that the country needed fresh leadership to conduct the departure negotiations and he would only continue as Prime Minister until the Tory Party Conference in October. A new Brexit leader is anticipated, be it through a leadership contest which could even lead to an early General Election. The expected favourite will be Boris Johnson, with likely contenders Theresa May and Nicky Morgan, but it is unlikely that Michael Gove, the Justice Secretary, will challenge his Vote Leave compatriot Johnson, instead he may be the next Chancellor of the Exchequer.
Almost instantly the Sterling dropped to the lowest level in 31 years and gold prices rose by 5%, the FTSE dropped 7.5% and Mark Carney announced that The Bank of England had GDP £250 billion to support the Sterling. The German, French, Spanish and Italian stock markets fell more than the British Stock Exchange showing the potential for great economic instability in Europe. Britain now enters phase two of uncertainty, Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, a two-year long mechanism that is the legal way to resign from the EU, will not be implemented until a new Prime Minister is appointed to negotiate the divorce process.
As Thursday evening progressed, the BBC’s “line of probability” and the pollster expert predictions were proved wrong, again (as in the General Election in 2015). As it turned out, tBBC ‘s line of probability based on tight result is “unexpectedly” wrongBBC ‘s line of probability based on tight result is “unexpectedly” wronghe Vote Leave team were more convincing on immigration and border control than the government and the result is widely regarded as a vote against the establishment, particularly George Osborne’s so called “punishment budget” which threatened to diminish spending on state pensions, the health service and defence. Generally Cameron put the bar for EU reform too low and the British fear of “ever closer union” and opaque, unelected bureaucracy defeated a campaign that included the support of world leaders and all significant financial institutions. The Blue on Blue attacks were unappealing to the electorate with very personal attacks directed at Boris Johnson.
The majority of Remain votes from London, Scotland and Northern Ireland were not sufficient to continue UK’s membership of the EU. Now Nicola Sturgeon has declared Scotland’s future as part of the EU and angry Scottish politicians are already calling for a second Independence Referendum. Sinn Fein, the Irish Republican Party dedicated to end British jurisdiction in the north of Ireland, says Brexit makes the case for a United Ireland. Doubt is also cast against the leader of the Labour party Jeremy Corbyn as Labour failed to deliver their “Remain” objective, Corbyn said earlier this week there was no limit immigration to UK while there was free movement of labour. Corbyn is accused of being out of touch with the non-metropolitan Labour supporter. Many have noted Labour’s Gisela Stuart MP and Chair of VoteLeave, as a respected solid performer who would be a good counterweight to the Tories on the front bench. A jubilant Nigel Farage is preening saying it is a “win for decent people” implying that the 48% who voted for Remain are not decent, a typically improper and divisive claim after the victory of VoteLeave, a cross-party organisation. The Rt. Hon. Lord Feldman will continue as Conservative Party Chairman whilst the leadership election takes place, ensuring that the conference is delivered in the autumn, hewill step down when the Prime Minister leaves Downing Street.
Conservatives MP’s are calling for calm, stability, continuity and a phased repatriation, UK is still obliged to fulfil its existing obligations and it is unlikely that Cameron’s agreed February migrant restrictions will now be realised. It is not known how UK will participate in the decisions for future sanctions on Russia, which were due to be rolled over in June.
The three figureheads of Vote Leave, Stuart, Johnson and Gove, appeared mid-morning on Friday delighted but sombre, aware of the seismic consequences for Britain and the European continent. The latter two paid tribute to David Cameron for excellent leadership, praising his courage to hold the Referendum and creating the dynamic economy that Britain now enjoys. Johnson reassured young people that Britain would not become isolationist but remain friendly and active in Europe, despite the Federal system being no longer relevant, he assures them of a prosperous and secure future from a Britain with a powerful, liberal and humane voice. Gove confirmed that existing trade would continue as usual and that informal discussions with the European Commission would precede formal talks.
The five European CommissionPresidents and are dismayed, worrying about the future of the Euro and the rise of nationalist parties, they will be desperate to avoid any contagion as this result will highlight existing divisions in the EU, with Poland, the Czech Republic, Denmark and Sweden already dissatisfied. France and Germany will not appreciate this reversal of 1975 the Common Market referendum during their elections in 2017.
The new Prime Minister will have to approach the EU, Scotland, Northern Ireland and his own party with skill and tact to navigate the troubled waters.