Britain votes to leave EU in historic divorce

Britons vote to leave the EU in referendum that could seal the fate of 28-nation union and high-profile UK politicians

Britain has voted to leave the European Union in a referendum, with the result throwing into question the fate of the 28-nation bloc and several high-profile British politicians, including the prime minister.

The official results were announced with Leave receiving 59,1 percent in Thursday’s historic referendum.

Prime Minister David Cameron had backed a vote to remain.

britainWhen asked whether Cameron should resign in case of a Brexit, Nigel Farage, leader of UKIP which had backed a vote to Leave, said: “immediately”.

At least 72 percent of 46.5m voters turned out cast their ballot.

‘Dawn is breaking’

Farage declared victory in a speech held in London as a Brexit looked increasingly likely.

“The dawn is breaking on an independent United Kingdom,” he said to loud cheers at a Leave campaign party.

“I hope this victory brings down this failed project and leads us to a Europe of sovereign nation states, trading together, being friends together, cooperating together, and let’s get rid of the flag, the anthem, Brussels and all that has gone wrong.”

“Let June the 23rd go down in history as our Independence Day.”

Farage went on to accuse Cameron and former prime ministers Gordon Brown and Tony Blair of “irresponsible, open-door mass-immigration that has damaged the quality of life of ordinary, decent people in this country.”

Outside the UK parliament early on Friday morning, Al Jazeera’s Barnaby Phillips said the outcome is “an enormous rejection of the political class”.

“There is anger towards the political class. The message on immigration resonated in large parts of the country.

“People at the poorer end of society feel that the large number of EU migrants, and other migrants, that have come in has been to their disadvantage; that it has hurt access to schools, access to housing, pushed down wages at the bottom end of the wage scale.

“It is fair to relate it, in a wider context, to the support that Donald Trump has managed to get in the primary stages in the United States… a distrust of the authorities, a distrust of the establishment that has governed western democracies all these decades.

“And they are shattering the consensus of how these countries work.”

Diminished global voice

Britain’s Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond told Al Jazeera the UK’s exit would diminish Britain’s global voice.

“We will be less influential on the world stage,” he said, but argued the clear result of the referendum was that Britons are much more focused on issues closer to home.

“We have to listen to that message and we have to respond accordingly, protecting as best we can, Britain’s interests and the interests of Britain’s people.”

Hammond said Farage, who emerged on Friday as the face of the Vote Leave victory, “must not be allowed to highjack the victory of the Brexit campaign.”

In moving forward, London must focus on “negotiating the best arrangements we can for Britain’s future trading relationship with Europe, reassuring our friends and partners around the world that Britain is not retreating into a Little England, as perhaps Nigel Farage would like”.

“But that it will remain an engaged, internationally focused player, and that, if I may call them this, the middle of the road voices in the Brexit campaign will prevail in terms of setting the tone of where that group wants us to go in the future.”

Financial turmoil

The figures delivered a deep shock to financial markets, overturning earlier anticipation of a narrow victory for Remain.

During the vote, the UK’s currency, Sterling, was in freefall. It dropped to its lowest level since 1985, dipping to $1.34 on Friday, falling 10 percent from the 2016 high of $1.50 hit just hours earlier.

The pound had initially soared as polls closed and two opinion surveys put Remain ahead and two leading supporters of the Leave campaign said it appeared the pro-EU side had won.

Source: Al Jazeera