Jun 24, 2016 by

The U.K. just voted to leave the E.U. Here’s what that means
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After months of campaigning, the “leave” camp has won and Britain will be leaving the European Union. The Post’s Adam Taylor talks about what that means for the country and Europe. (Adam Taylor,Jason Aldag/The Washington Post)
By Griff Witte, Karla Adam and Dan Balz June 24 at 10:27 AM

LONDON — British voters defied their leaders and international allies by cutting ties with the European Union in a stunning result Friday that threw financial markets into chaos, forced Britain’s prime minister to resign and unleashed a new independence quest by Scotland.

As Britain absorbed the earthshaking news, Prime Minister David Cameron said he would step down after championing the campaign to remain in the European Union.

Just hours later, the leader in heavily pro-E.U. Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, said she would push for a new referendum to break with England and the other two partners in the United Kingdom: Wales and Northern Ireland.

[Live updates: Britain votes to leave the E.U.]

A second independence referendum, after voters opted to remain part of Britain in 2014, is “highly likely,” said Sturgeon, the Scottish first minister. Calls to break away were echoed by nationalists in Northern Ireland.
Britain cuts ties with the European Union
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British Prime Minister David Cameron announced that he will resign.

In an emotional address outside his 10 Downing Street offices, Cameron said the country now deserved “fresh leadership” in the face of the rejection in Thursday’s referendum, which tipped 52 percent to 48 percent to the E.U. critics despite many pre-vote polls predicting just the opposite outcome.

Cameron, who enjoys a close relationship with President Obama, said he hoped a new prime minister could be in place by October.

The tumultuous and fast-breaking developments reflected a country shocked by its own decision. The vote to leave the E.U. could mark one of the key turning points in modern British history .

But, for the moment, no one knew where the country’s new path led, with joyous anti-E.U. voters celebrating “a glorious opportunity” and shattered Europhiles warning of the cataclysms to come.

The decision effectively delays the start of divorce proceedings with Britain’s 27 other E.U. partners. Cameron said that only after the transition in leadership would the country begin the formal process of withdrawing from the European Union — popularly known as Brexit — which is supposed to take two years once it officially begins.

But even as the steps for a British departure were put on hold, immediate shock waves resonated in all directions.

The British pound plummeted to its lowest level against the dollar since 1985, and stock markets dropped sharply around the world.

The market gyrations prompted Bank of England Governor Mark Carney to try to calm investors with a statement asserting that the bank was “well prepared” for the referendum’s outcome. The central bank, Carney said, was ready to intervene to prop up the economy.

[Global markets in turmoil after vote]

In his comments, Cameron also sought to reassure jittery markets, calling Britain’s economy “fundamentally sound” and saying there would be no immediate changes in the status of immigrants in the country.

“I will do everything I can as prime minister to steady the ship over the coming weeks and months,” he said with his wife, Samantha Cameron, standing at his side. “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.”

After his announcement, Cameron was driven later Friday morning to Buckingham Palace for an audience with the queen.

Cameron’s pro-E.U. side had a sweep of international backers including Obama. In a statement, Obama spoke of the deep U.S. bonds with both Britain and the European Union.

“The people of the United Kingdom have spoken, and we respect their decision,” Obama said. “The special relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom is enduring, and the United Kingdom’s membership in NATO remains a vital cornerstone of U.S. foreign, security and economic policy.”

Cameron’s decision to step down injects immediate internal political tumult into a moment that was already riddled with uncertainties and upheaval.

It set off an instant contest to replace him, with former London mayor Boris Johnson — a leading campaigner in the anti-E.U. campaign — considered the odds-on favorite.

An uncharacteristically serious and even somber Johnson told reporters he was “sad” about Cameron’s resignation. He described Cameron, a longtime friend and rival, as “one of the most extraordinary politicians of our age.”

The mop-haired Johnson did not say whether he would seek Cameron’s job. He did praise voters for rejecting the European Union. He described the E.U. as “a noble idea for its time” but one that “is no longer right for this country.”

Cameron’s successor will not be picked by the general public but instead in an internal process by his Conservative Party.

It is highly likely that whoever is picked will be further to the political right than Cameron. Since taking office in 2010, Cameron had sought to move his party toward the political center, championing gay marriage and taking a softer line on immigration than some in the party had sought. But his repudiation over the European Union — fueled by an anti-immigration backlash — will likely leave the party’s right-wing ascendant.

The domestic political backlash was not limited to the Tories: A group of senior Labour Party members launched an attempt to oust their leader, the hard-left Jeremy Corbyn, following a lackluster Labour campaign to deliver an “in” vote.

[European power suddenly shrinks]brexit0625-map-homepage-v2

Johnson was mobbed outside his house in north London early Friday, with some cheering him but far more jeering a man whom many pro-E.U. Londoners blame for the outcome of Thursday’s referendum. “Shame on you!” some yelled.

Bicyclists later tried to block Johnson’s car as it made its way through the city’s center.

The vote result will rattle officials in Washington. Obama was expected to speak to Cameron in the next day. Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, who was in Scotland on Friday to open a golf course, backed Brexit.

Asked by reporters about the vote as he toured his course to the tune of bagpipes, Trump on Friday called it “a great thing.”

“They took back their country,” said Trump, who sported a white “Make America Great Again” cap. “That’s a great thing.”

The referendum is perhaps the most dramatic to date in a wave of populist and nationalist uprisings on both sides of the Atlantic that are overturning traditional notions of what is politically possible.

It also will have a profound effect on the European Union, which will lose a major military and diplomatic power within its ranks. “This looks to be a sad day for Europe and for Britain,” said Germany’s foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

For months, Britain’s political and economic elite had looked on with growing apprehension as the country flirted with a choice that experts had warned could lead to global recession and a rip in the Western alliance.

But most predicted this pragmatically minded country would ultimately side with keeping Britain in an organization regarded as a pillar of the global economic and political order.

Instead, a majority of British voters heeded the call of pro-Brexit campaigners to liberate the nation from what many here regard as an oppressive Brussels bureaucracy that enables mass migration into the country.

[3 reasons that Americans should care about the British vote]

“Let June the 23rd go down in our history as our independence day!” cried a jubilant Nigel Farage, a firebrand anti-E.U. leader, in a 4 a.m. celebration. All around him, “leave” campaigners clinked pints of beer and cheered their improbable victory.

When polls closed six hours earlier, Farage had all but conceded defeat, saying he believed “remain” had won. But as results poured in through Thursday night and into the early hours of Friday, the “remain” camp was increasingly despairing.

About a third of results had yet to be counted as of 4 a.m. local time. But the BBC reported that “leave” had taken an insurmountable lead.

In the end, “leave” won by more than a million votes — out of some 33 million cast, or nearly three-quarters of eligible voters. In percentage terms, the pro-Brexit split of 52 percent to 48 percent was the inverse of what final opinion polls had predicted.

The outcome revealed vast divides — with massive victory margins for “remain” in thriving metropolitan centers such as London and equally resounding victories for “leave” in small towns, rural areas and struggling, post-industrial cities.

[Who could be next?]

“God help our country,” tweeted Paddy Ashdown, the former Liberal Democrat leader and an outspoken E.U. advocate.

The “leave” campaign found a compelling rallying cry with its call for voters to “Take Back Control,” a slogan that resonated among an electorate ill at ease with record levels of immigration — much of it from Europe under the E.U.’s free-movement policy.

Polls suggested that “leave” alienated some voters with its reliance on what critics saw as increasingly nativist rhetoric. That was particularly true after the killing last week of pro-E.U. lawmaker Jo Cox, a murder that appeared to awaken a passion in “remain” supporters that had been previously lacking.

A “leave” lead last week in the polls diminished, and the race turned into a dead heat. Surveys released Thursday as Britons voted had shown “remain” with a clear edge, results that cheered investors and boosted markets across Europe and Asia.

[Within British battles over E.U., a hint of America’s political rifts]

The vote split the country along essential lines: Old versus young. Provincial versus metropolitan. Scotland versus England. Native-born Britons versus immigrants.

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Those divisions may only be hardened by Thursday’s result and could be heightened further if an avowed Euroskeptic comes to office at 10 Downing Street.

During months of campaigning, pro-Brexit leaders unleashed fevered attacks on Brussels, but they offered no common, detailed vision of how the country could succeed outside the bloc.

But Johnson said that whatever the outcome, Britain would not turn inward.

“We cannot turn our backs on Europe. We are part of Europe,” he said. “Britain will continue to be a great European power.”

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