The UK has voted by a narrow margin to leave the European Union, after 43 years of membership. As the final results come through, the prediction is that Britain has backed Brexit by 52 per cent to 48 per cent.
Wales, the Northeast, the Northwest, the Midlands and the Southwest voted in significant numbers to leave the EU, whereas London, Scotland and Northern Ireland voted strongly to Remain.
The Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has already hinted at a potential second independence referendum in Scotland, considering all of its major local authorities voted Remain.
Turnout was 72 per cent – the highest in a nationwide ballot in the UK since the 1992 general election.
As the outcome became clear, the pound fell to its lowest level against the dollar since 1985. This is twice as much the sterling fell on Black Wednesday. The Prime Minister and the Governor of the Bank of England are expected to make speeches early this morning, to calm the markets. The London stock exchange will probably open late this morning; the City was not expecting such an outcome.
The Ukip leader Nigel Farage has declared victory in the referendum, telling supporters to “dare to dream that the dawn is breaking on an independent United Kingdom”. Farage, who was predicting that he would have to concede defeat just hours before the results came in, has been campaigning for the past two decades for Britain to leave the EU.
Farage has called on David Cameron – who called the referendum and has been campaigning for Remain – to resign “immediately”. A Labour source has added that Cameron “should seriously consider his position”. But in the interests of unity, more than 80 eurosceptic Tory MPs – including every cabinet minister who voted Leave – have signed a letter addressed to Cameron, urging him to remain as Prime Minister regardless of the result.
Cameron will have to decide when to trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which would give the UK two years to negotiate its withdrawal. He has said in the past that he would trigger it immediately, but prominent Brexiters would prefer him not to rush it, to give the UK time to decide what it wants from leaving the EU.