LONDON – European politics and world financial markets were thrown into disarray Friday, after Britain voted to leave the European Union in a move hailed by nationalists as the country’s own version of Independence Day. Utv Pakistan Report
The so-called “Brexit” from the 28-nation bloc, designed half a century ago to promote trade on the continent and prevent World War III, capped a bitter campaign and signaled the pending end of Prime Minister David Cameron’s tenure at No. 10 Downing Street.
“The dawn is breaking on an independent United Kingdom,” said Nigel Farage, leader of the UK Independence Party. “Let June 23 go down in our history as our independence day!”
Supporters of the “leave” side painted the vote as a referendum on the nation’s sovereignty, which they say has been ceded to unelected EU bureaucrats based in Brussels.
“It’s a vindication of 1,000 years of British democracy,” commuter Jonathan Campbell James declared at the train station in Richmond, southwest London. “From Magna Carta all the way through to now we’ve had a slow evolution of democracy, and this vote has vindicated the maturity and depth of the democracy in our country.”
Those on the “remain” side warned that an exit will lead to loss of British jobs and could destabilize the continental compact.
Cameron, who had led the campaign to keep Britain in the EU, said he would resign by October and left it to his successor to decide when to invoke Article 50, which triggers a departure from European Union.
“I will do everything I can as prime minister to steady the ship over the coming weeks and months,” he said, “but I do not think it would be right for me to try to be the captain that steers the country to its next destination.”
The electoral commission said 52 percent of voters opted to leave the EU. Turnout was high: 72 percent of the more than 46 million registered voters cast ballots.
Polls ahead of the vote had shown a close race, but the momentum had increasingly appeared to be on the “remain” side over the last week. The result shocked investors, and stock markets plummeted around the world, with key indexes dropping 10 percent in Germany and about 8 percent in Japan and Britain.
The UK would be the first major country to leave the EU, which was born from the ashes of World War II as European leaders sought to build links and avert future hostility. With no precedent, the impact on the single market of 500 million people — the world’s largest economy — is unclear.
Germany called top diplomats from the EU’s six founding nations to a meeting Saturday, and the president of the European Council, Donald Tusk, said the bloc will meet without Britain at a summit next week to assess its future. Tusk vowed not to let the vote derail the European project.
“What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger,” he said.
But already, far-right leaders in France and the Netherlands were calling for a similar anti-EU vote.
Cameron called the referendum largely to silence voices to his right, then staked his reputation on keeping Britain in the EU. Former London Mayor Boris Johnson, who is from the same party, was the most prominent supporter of the “leave” campaign and now becomes a leading contender to replace Cameron. The vote also dealt a blow to the main opposition Labour Party, which threw its weight behind the “remain” campaign.
“A lot of people’s grievances are coming out and we have got to start listening to them,” said deputy Labour Party leader John McDonnell.
Donald Trump, in Scotland to visit to one of his golf courses, said Britons “took back their country. It’s a great thing.” He likened the vote to the U.S. sentiment that has propelled him to the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, saying people in the United States and the United Kingdom are angry about similar things including unfettered immigration and trade policies that he claims cost domestic jobs.
“The people of the United Kingdom have exercised the sacred right of all free peoples,” Trump said. “They have declared their independence from the European Union, and have voted to reassert control over their own politics, borders and economy.”
The contentious buildup to the vote was roiled last week by the murder of pro-Europe lawmaker Jo Cox, which appeared to shift momentum away from the “leave” camp. While it isn’t clear whether her killer was influenced by the EU debate, her death aroused fears that the referendum had stirred demons it would be difficult to subdue.
The result triggers a new series of negotiations that is expected to last two years or more as Britain and the EU search for a way to separate economies that have become intertwined since the UK joined the bloc on Jan. 1, 1973. Until those talks are completed, Britain will remain a member of the EU.