The Brexit Referendum results – 51.9% for Leave and 48.1% to Remain – confirm the United Kingdom has decided to leave the European Union. Today’s results will have serious ramifications as the country enters a phase of protracted uncertainty.
The initial economic reaction is already grim, with markets deeply nervous about the future of the country outside the EU. Sterling has fallen to a three-decade low and is on track for its worst ever fall against the US dollar. The FTSE 100 was down by 8.3% within minutes of opening, wiping £137 billion of UK blue chip stocks.
Prime Minister David Cameron has announced his resignation, expecting to leave within months. Scotland’s 32 council areas all voted to remain, raising the prospect of it being taken out of the EU against its will and provoking calls for a second independence referendum for the country. In Northern Ireland, Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness has called for a border poll on a united Ireland, destabilizing an already precarious peace process.
The campaign hinged on a web of hot-potato political and economic issues, with the Leave campaign focused on re-gaining sovereignty from the EU, immigration, employment and welfare. It presented a post-EU Britain with more independence and influence in the global order and tapped into the public’s deep seated dissatisfaction with the political classes, both in the UK and Europe. It promised that on all counts the UK would be better off out of the EU – now the country has the opportunity to test those claimschristmas inflatables.
For those committed to keeping the UK in Europe it is a sad day and relatively unexpected based on early expectations once polls closed. It is also a grim day for the EU, as the result will likely further destabilise a Union already weakened by the Mediterranean migration crisis, growing euro-skepticism in countries such as The Netherlands, Hungary and Greece, and persistent post-recession economic woes.
The future of the EU – a project of peace and security in post-war Europe unlike no other – is now in greater jeopardy than ever. For the UK, saying ‘goodbye’ to Europe will mean a ushering in a period of deep political instability and economic uncertainty, which will reverberate throughout the continent and beyond.