[The British campaign featured assertions and allegations tossed around with little regard to the facts. Both sides played to emotion, and the most common emotion played upon was fear.]
By Steven Erlanger
“Dare to dream that the dawn is breaking on an independent
Nigel Farage, the leader of the U.K. Independence Party, told supporters.
Credit Adam Ferguson for The New York Times
Not long after the vote tally was completed, Prime Minister David Cameron, who led the campaign to remain in the bloc, appeared in front of
10 Downing Street on Friday morning to announce that he
planned to step down by October, saying the country deserved a leader committed
to carrying out the will of the people.
The stunning turn of events was accompanied by a plunge in the financial markets, with the value of the British pound and stock prices plummeting.
The margin of victory startled even proponents of a British exit. The “Leave” campaign won by 52 percent to 48 percent. More than 17.4 million people voted in the referendum on Thursday to sever ties with the European Union, and about 16.1 million to remain in the bloc.
“I will do everything I can as prime minister to steady the ship over the coming weeks and months,” Mr. Cameron said. “But I do not think it would be right for me to try to be the captain that steers our country to its next destination.”
Despite opinion polls before the referendum that showed either side in a position to win, the outcome stunned much of
, Britain Europe
and the trans-Atlantic alliance, highlighting the power of anti-elite, populist
and nationalist sentiment at a time of economic and cultural dislocation.
“Dare to dream that the dawn is breaking on an independent United Kingdom,” Nigel Farage, the leader of the U.K. Independence Party, one of the primary forces behind the push for a referendum on leaving the European Union, told cheering supporters just after 4 a.m.
Withdrawing from the European Union is a lengthy process that Mr. Cameron will largely leave to his successor. It will mean pulling out from the world’s largest trading zone, with 508 million residents, including the 65 million people of Britain, and a commitment to the free movement of labor, capital, goods and services. It has profound implications for
’s legal system, which incorporates a large
body of regulations that cover everything from product safety to digital
privacy, and for Britain ’s economy. Britain
One reason the City,
’s financial district, shuddered on Friday is
that it is a hub for trading in euro-denominated securities, activity that may
now shift to rivals like London Frankfurt and . Paris
It was also not clear that the
could survive withdrawal from the European
Union intact. There was immediate pressure for another referendum on
independence from United Kingdom for Britain , which voted overwhelmingly on Thursday to
stay with Scotland Europe.
“I think an independence referendum is now highly likely,” said
’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, who said
it would be “democratically unacceptable” for Scotland to be pushed out of the European Union when
a majority of Scots want to stay in. Scotland
Keith Vaz, a Labour legislator, said: “This is a crushing decision; this is a terrible day for
and a terrible day for Britain Europe. In 1,000 years, I would never have believed
that the British people would vote for this.”
European leaders acknowledged that the British vote would further limit their ability to move forward with economic and political integration, a process that had all but stalled anyway.
“Today marks a turning point for
Europe,” Chancellor Angela Merkel of said. “It is a turning point for the
European unification process.” Germany
, the maneuvering began almost immediately to
succeed Mr. Cameron, who said he would stay on while his Conservative Party
went through the process of settling on a new leader. Among the most prominent
of the possible candidates is Boris Johnson, the former mayor of London who was a leader of the Leave campaign. He
praised Mr. Cameron as an “extraordinary politician” while saying he was sad to
see him go. London
It was a remarkable victory for the country’s anti-Europe forces, which not long ago were considered to have little chance of prevailing.
Financial markets, which had been anticipating that
would vote to stay in, started plunging
before the vote tally was complete, putting pressure on central banks and
regulators to take steps to guard against a spread of the damage. Britain
Substantial damage to the British economy. Mark Carney, the head of the Bank of England, sought to address those concerns on Friday, saying the bank had made extensive contingency plans and had taken “all the necessary steps” to prepare.
Mr. Cameron had vowed before the vote to move quickly to begin the divorce process if
opted to leave. But he said on Friday that
he would leave the start of the formal process to his successor, while seeking
in the interim to calm the atmosphere before taking any action. Britain
In the meantime, nothing will change immediately on either side of the Channel, with existing trade and immigration rules remaining in place. The withdrawal process is expected to be complex and contentious, though under the bloc’s governing treaty it is effectively limited to two years.
Mr. Johnson, like a number of other leaders of the push to leave the European Union, said there was no need to rush to set in motion the legal procedure — invoking a provision known as Article 50 — that would formally sever ties between
and the bloc. He and other advocates of
leaving the European Union have been taking a go-slow posture on the mechanics
of the divorce, saying Britain can get a better deal on trade if it can
avoid arbitrary deadlines on the negotiations. Britain
For the European Union, the result is a disaster, raising questions about the direction, cohesion and future of a bloc built on liberal values and shared sovereignty that represents, with NATO, a vital component of
Europe’s postwar structure.
The loss of
is an enormous blow to the credibility of a
bloc already under pressure from slow growth, high unemployment, the migrant
crisis, Britain ’s debt woes and the conflict in Greece . Ukraine
“The main impact will be massive disorder in the E.U. system for the next two years,” said Thierry de Montbrial, founder and executive chairman of the French Institute of International Relations. “There will be huge political transition costs, on how to solve the British exit, and the risk of a domino effect or bank run from other countries that think of leaving.”
While leaders of the Leave campaign spoke earnestly about sovereignty and the supremacy of Parliament or in honeyed tones about “the bright sunlit uplands” of
’s future free of Britain , it was anxiety about immigration that
defined and probably swung the campaign. Brussels
With net migration to
of 330,000 people in 2015, more than half of
them from the European Union, Mr. Cameron had no effective response to how he
could limit the influx. And there was no question that while the immigrants
contributed more to the economy and to tax receipts than they cost, parts of Britain felt that its national identity was under
assault and that the influx was putting substantial pressure on schools, health
care and housing. Britain
The campaign run by one of the loudest proponents of leaving, the U.K. Independence Party, flirted with xenophobia, nativism and what some of its critics considered racism. But the official, more mainstream Leave campaign also invoked immigration as an issue, and its slogan, “Take control,” resonated with voters who feel that the government is failing to regulate the inflow of people from Europe and beyond.
Other anti-establishment and far-right parties in
Europe, like the National Front of Marine Le Pen in
France, Geert Wilders’s party in the and the Alternative for Netherlands party will celebrate the outcome. The depth
of anti-Europe sentiment could be a key factor in national elections scheduled
next year in the other two most important countries of the European Union, Germany and France . Germany
The British campaign featured assertions and allegations tossed around with little regard to the facts. Both sides played to emotion, and the most common emotion played upon was fear.
The “Remain” side, citing scores of experts and elite opinion, warned that leaving the bloc, a so-called Brexit, would mean an economic catastrophe, a plunging pound, higher taxes, more austerity and the loss of jobs.
The Leave side warned that remaining would produce uncontrolled immigration, crime and terrorism, with hordes pouring into
from Britain , a country of 77 million Muslims that
borders Turkey and Syria and hopes to join the European Union. Iraq
Just a week before the vote, the country was jolted by the brutal murder of a young Labour member of Parliament, Jo Cox, 41, a strong supporter of Remain. A man who prosecutors said shouted “
first,” “This is for Britain ” and “Keep Britain independent” was charged with her murder. Britain
especially, 85 percent of the population of England , many people fell back on national pride, cultural
exceptionalism and nostalgia. Many English voters chose to believe the
insistence of anti-Europe leaders like Mr. Johnson that as a great nation, Britain would be more powerful and successful
outside the European Union than inside. Britain
and Scotland , by contrast, there was a strong pro-Europe
feeling that has only increased tensions within the Northern Ireland itself. United Kingdom
Mr. Cameron felt pushed into announcing the referendum in 2013 by the anti-Europe wing of his own party, amplified by concerns among other Tories that U.K. Independence Party and Mr. Farage were cutting too sharply into the Conservative vote.
Still, Mr. Cameron entered the campaign with the force of economic experts, President Obama, European allies and big business behind him. But as ever, referendums are not about the question asked but the political mood at the time, and the political mood is sour.