In a bitterly divided race, Great Britain voted to sever ties with the European Union (EU) on Thursday, with “Leave” edging “Remain” by more than one million votes — 17,410,742 to 16,141,241 or 51.9 to 48.1 percent — amid heavy turnout.
Dealt a blow to his leadership on a matter of importance he passionately campaigned in favor, British Prime Minister David Cameron announced his resignation in a nationwide address on Friday morning. Greeting reporters outside the PM’s residence, Cameron said:
“I do not think it would be right for me to be the captain that steers our country to its next destination.”
Speculation persists former London Mayor Boris Johnson, Home Secretary Theresa May and Justice Minister Michael Gove, all three of whom strongly supported withdrawing from the EU, are likely replacements for Cameron.
United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) leader Nigel Farage, a strong supporter of “Leave,” vacillated most of Thursday evening and at points conceded a “Remain” victory to retract later and concede again and retract a second time, celebrated the vote as a victory for ordinary Britons and called on Cameron to resign immediately.
Similarly, reaction was swift from the EU, whose leadership issued a statement expressing regret over Great Britain’s decision to leave, but demanded the British government move without delay to avoid a period of “prolonged uncertainty.”
The vote yesterday, which reflected deep divisions within the British Isles, saw the strongest support for a break with the EU in the Midlands and in both the east and southeast portions of England; the East region often witnessed support for “Brexit” surpass 60 percent.
In contrast, “Remain” commanded Greater London, Scotland and Northern Ireland. In London alone, close to 60 percent favored remaining inside the EU’s economic sphere.
Support for departing the EU revolved around several key issues: First, many voters were swayed by the increasingly problematic immigration issue. Despite recent negotiations by Cameron to secure “special status” within the EU, voters were unconvinced new provisions would allow controls on immigration and illegals entering the country would flourish.
Second, older voters were drawn to the ballot booth in large numbers. 60 percent of older voters, aged 65 and older, formed a powerful voting bloc in favor of an exodus from the EU. Most concerned with health care, “Leave” advocates forcefully promoted the notion an additional £350 million would be liberated a week from leaving the EU and could be spent on National Health Service programs.
Third, the public refused to listen to the “doom and gloom” effects of a withdrawal. Despite advancing theories of economic calamity, economic growth stalling, a sharp devaluing of the Pound and skyrocketing unemployment, many who favored leaving tended to favor London having a greater say over domestic issues without having to surrender to the EU and preserving Britain’s unique identity, which many found was lost amid association with continental Europe.
The fallout from the “Brexit” referendum was not merely a national issue. Locally, the decision to quit the EU fueled conjecture Scotland will push for yet another referendum.
Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, denounced the Brexit vote and stated it was “democratically unacceptable” Scotland is forced to leave the EU. Scotland voted overwhelmingly, 62 percent to 38 percent, to remain within the alliance.
Sturgeon added the option for a second Scottish independence bid was “on the table.”
[BBC] [Wall Street Journal] [RT News] [Photo courtesy Reuters via Express]