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The result's in... and the UK is out

12:00am | & News

Regardless of how you voted, today will go down as a truly momentous day in British history.

The referendum result is in, with 52% in favour of Britain leaving the European Union and 48% wanting to remain. It was always going to be close, but the narrow victory for the Leave campaign has still been seen as something of a shock result.

Shortly afterwards, Prime Minister David Cameron – the staunchest campaigner for the Remain camp – announced that he will stand down as PM, not immediately, but in around three months' time. The priority now, he said, was for a period of stability, but he did not see himself as the Captain steering the ship that is the UK to its next destination. 

He suggested a new Prime Minister should be in place in time for the Conservative Party Conference in October, and that it should be the job of the country's new leader to trigger the 'Article 50' mechanism which will formally begin negotiations or Britain's exit from the EU.

Speculation is already rife about who the new Prime Minister will be. Although it is very early days, it seems likely to be one of the 138 Conservative MPs who broke ranks with the official Party line and declared their support for a leave vote. Former Mayor of London Boris Johnson and Home Secretary Theresa May are two names already being bandied about, but there are many other possible contenders.

One thing that is clear is that nothing will really change with immediate effect. Britain will remain a member of the EU until the Article 50 negotiations are completed – a process which can take up to two years and might not even begin until October.

All the current arrangements and agreements with the EU will continue until then, although Britain's voice in Europe will inevitably carry less force from today. Britain's MEPs will continue in post, while also considering their longer term futures and career options.

Financial markets have initially reacted badly to the news, with the value of the pound falling and millions wiped off shares, but such a reaction is far from unusual after news of a major political upheaval. As 'The City', the country, and the world come to terms with the news over the next few days and weeks, the financial markets are expected to stabilise and recover.

More important could be the ripples that spread out from Britain in the aftermath of the vote result. Pressure is already mounting in several other Europen countries for their own exit referendums, and the Brexit result will only strengthen those calls. It could be that Britain becomes the first of several to quit the EU, with some political commentators already predicting it could be the beginning of the end for the faltering Union.

Closer to home, Scotland will become a political 'hot potato'. It is the only part of the UK to vote resolutely in favour of remaining a part of the EU. As part of the UK, it is bound by the UK-wide vote, but calls are already being made for a re-run of last year's Scottish independence referendum.

If that happens and Scotland this time votes for independence, then it theory it could remain a part of the EU as an independent nation. Even then, a newly-independent Scotland would probably need another referendum on its membership of the EU.

Summer is usually a very quiet time on the political scene, with the House of Commons summer recess scheduled from July 21st to September 5th. This year though, it looks like the summer could hold a turbulent few months in politics as the nation gets to grips with the news that today, June 23rd, 2016, the UK has voted to leave the European Union.

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