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Britain Votes To Leave The European Union

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Britain Votes To Leave The European Union

A British Union Jack flag and an European flag fly on the Amiens city hall during a a Franco-Britain summit in Amiens, northern France, March 3, 2016. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer

This article was last updated on June 24, 8:45 AM EDT.

By Guy Faulconbridge and Kate Holton

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain voted to leave the European Union, forcing the resignation of Prime Minister David Cameron and dealing the biggest blow to the European project of greater unity since World War Two.

Global financial markets plunged on Friday as results from a referendum showed a 52-48 percent victory for the campaign to leave a bloc Britain joined more than 40 years ago.

The pound fell as much as 10 percent against the dollar to touch levels last seen in 1985, on fears the decision could hit investment in the world’s fifth-largest economy, threaten London’s role as a global financial capital and usher in months of political uncertainty.

World stocks headed for one of the biggest slumps on record, and billions of dollars were wiped off the value of European companies. Britain’s big banks took a $130 billion battering, with Lloyds <LLOY.L> and Barclays <BARC.L> falling as much as 30 percent at the opening of trade.

The United Kingdom itself could now break apart, with the leader of Scotland – where nearly two-thirds of voters wanted to stay in the EU – saying a new referendum on independence from the rest of Britain was “highly likely”.

An emotional Cameron, who led the “Remain” campaign to defeat, losing the gamble he took when he called the referendum three years ago, said he would leave office by October.

“The British people have made the very clear decision to take a different path and as such I think the country requires fresh leadership to take it in this direction,” he said in a televised address outside his residence.

“I do not think it would be right for me to be the captain that steers our country to its next destination,” he added, choking back tears before walking back through 10 Downing Street’s black door with his arm around his wife Samantha.

Quitting the EU could cost Britain access to the EU’s trade barrier-free single market and means it must seek new trade accords with countries around the world.

The EU for its part will be economically and politically damaged, facing the departure of a member with its biggest financial center, a U.N. Security Council veto, a powerful army and nuclear weapons. In one go, the bloc will lose around a sixth of its economic output.

“It’s an explosive shock. At stake is the break up pure and simple of the union,” French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said. “Now is the time to invent another Europe.”

The result emboldened eurosceptics in other member states, with French National Front leader Marine Le Pen and Dutch far-right leader Geert Wilders demanding their countries also hold referendums. Le Pen changed her Twitter profile picture to a Union Jack and declared “Victory for freedom!”

The vote will initiate at least two years of divorce proceedings with the EU, the first exit by any member state. Cameron – who has been premier for six years and called the referendum in a bid to head off pressure from domestic eurosceptics – said it would be up to his successor to formally start the exit process.

His Conservative Party rival Boris Johnson, the former London mayor who became the most recognizable face of the “Leave” camp, is now widely tipped to seek his job.

Johnson left his home to jeers from a crowd in the mainly pro-EU capital. He spoke to reporters at Leave campaign headquarters, taking no questions on his personal ambitions.

“We can find our voice in the world again, a voice that is commensurate with the fifth-biggest economy on Earth,” he said.


There was euphoria among Britain’s eurosceptic forces, claiming a victory over the political establishment, big business and foreign leaders including U.S. President Barack Obama who had urged Britain to stay in.

“Let June 23 go down in our history as our independence day,” said Nigel Farage, leader of the eurosceptic UK Independence Party, describing the EU as “doomed” and “dying”.

On the continent, politicians reacted with dismay.

“It looks like a sad day for Europe and Britain,” said German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier. His boss Angela Merkel invited the French and Italian leaders to Berlin to discuss future steps.

The shock hits a European bloc already reeling from a euro zone debt crisis, unprecedented mass migration and confrontation with Russia over Ukraine. Anti-immigrant and anti-EU political parties have been surging across the continent, loosening the grip of the center-left and center-right establishment that has governed Europe for generations.

U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump, whose own rise has been fueled by similar disenchantment with the political establishment, called the vote a “great thing”. Britons “took back control of their country”, he said in Scotland where he was opening a golf resort. He criticized Obama for telling Britons how to vote, and drew a comparison with his own campaign.

“I see a big parallel,” he said. “People want to take their country back.”

American Vice President Joe Biden said the United States would have preferred Britain to remain in the EU, but respected the decision.

Britain has always been ambivalent about its relations with the rest of post-war Europe. A firm supporter of free trade, tearing down internal economic barriers and expanding the EU to take in ex-communist eastern states, it opted out of joining the euro single currency or the Schengen border-free zone.

Cameron’s ruling Conservatives in particular have harbored a vocal anti-EU wing for generations, and it was partly to silence such figures that he called the referendum in 2013.

When he called the referendum, he thought it would be a sure thing. But the 11th hour decision of Johnson – a schoolmate from the same elite private boarding school – to come down on the side of Leave gave the exit campaign a credible voice.

Even until the last minute, bookmakers and financial markets had overwhelmingly predicted a Remain vote.

World leaders including Obama, Chinese President Xi Jinping, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, NATO and Commonwealth governments had all urged a “Remain” vote, saying Britain would be stronger and more influential in the EU than outside.

The four-month campaign was among the divisive ever waged in Britain, with accusations of lying and scare-mongering on both sides and rows over immigration which critics said at times unleashed overt racism.

It revealed deep splits in British society, with the pro-Brexit side drawing support from millions of voters who felt left behind by globalization and blamed EU immigration for low wages and stretched public services.

At the darkest hour, a pro-EU member of parliament was stabbed and shot to death in the street. The suspect later told a court his name was “Death to traitors, freedom for Britain”.

Older voters backed Brexit; the young mainly wanted to stay in. London and Scotland supported the EU, but wide swathes of middle England, which have not shared in the capital’s prosperity, voted to leave.


The United Kingdom itself now faces a threat to its survival. Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said it was “democratically unacceptable” for Scotland to be dragged out of the EU against its will.

“It is a statement of the obvious that the option of a second referendum must be on the table and it is on the table,” she told reporters, two years after Scots voted to stay in the United Kingdom. “I think an independence referendum is now highly likely.”

The global financial turmoil was the worst shock since the 2008 economic crisis, and comes at a time when interest rates around the world are already at or near zero, leaving policymakers without the usual tools to respond.

The body blow to global confidence could prevent the Federal Reserve from raising interest rates as planned this year, and might even provoke a new round of emergency policy easing from all major central banks, despite their limited options.

The Bank of England pledged a huge financial backstop to calm plunging markets. Governor Mark Carney said it was offering to provide more than 250 billion pounds ($347 billion) plus “substantial” foreign currency liquidity and it was ready to take additional measures if needed.

Other central banks around the globe also intervened in markets. The European Central Bank said it was ready to provide euro and foreign currency liquidity if necessary.

Left unclear is the relationship Britain can negotiate with the EU once it leaves.

To retain access to the single market, vital for its giant financial services sector, London may have to adopt all EU regulation without having a say in its shaping, contribute to Brussels coffers, and continue to allow free movement as Norway and Switzerland do – all things the Leave campaign vowed to end.

EU officials have said UK-based banks and financial firms would lose automatic access to sell services across Europe if Britain ceased to apply the EU principles of free movement of goods, capital, services and people.

Huge questions also face the millions of British expatriates who live freely elsewhere in the bloc and enjoy equal access to health and other benefits, as well as millions of EU citizens who live and work in Britain.

(Additional reporting by William James, Kylie MacLellan, Sarah Young, Alistair Smout, Costas Pitas, Andy Bruce and David Milliken; Writing by Mark John and Pravin Char; Editing by Peter Graff)



    1. paulyz June 24, 2016

      So true, lol. The EU is an example of Socialist wealth distribution, where the poorer nations leech off the wealthier ones, regardless of the reasons. The main concerns of the Brits, & others that will follow, is their loss of sovereignty & self-determination under the EU. U.S. Citizens have seen the same loss of representation themselves.

      1. charleo1 June 25, 2016

        So, if that’s true. If The EU is an example of “Socialist wealth distribution.” Then, what would be best example of a Capitalist, or other more successful means of distribution? And would you support any of them? Even if those non existent examples could be found outside of present day Somalia. Which at present, they cannot be. So, how about we agree the underlying problem is the unequal distribution of wealth. By allowing as it has been those entities, corporate, and otherwise, controlling the vast majority of it, that have in fact mishandled that wealth. And that that is what has fueled the working class uprising that supported Brexit in the first place. But mostly for the wrong reasons. And, because they have fallen for the same bait and switch game, as has have many blue collar workers here in America. That are now foolishly, and none the wiser, supporting the huckster hooligan, Trump for President.

        Because, and here’s my point to you. It was not the working class objection to the, “Socialist,” Universe Healthcare System, paid leave, higher wages, or well funded retirement accounts, that cause then to support Brexit. In fact, just the opposite. They, the working class, demanded these purely Socialist programs be fully funded. And felt their wealth, and status was being diluted due to open borders. Just as they attributed their stagnant wages to the constant influx of immigrants willing to work for less. In truth, both situations emanated straight from the Capitalist playbook. That proposes one, immigrant or otherwise, is only entitled to that which they themselves can afford. Or, that it’s only right, and proper, for a business owner to pay wages that strictly reflect the barest minimum payout as is necessary to get the work done. Therefore, any fancy public health programs for those that can’t afford medical care, only increase their taxes, hurt their profits, and do very little for them in terms of benefiting their lot in life. Which always has, and continues to enjoy the best medical care, and look forward to many carefree and luxurious retirement years. I think the question from the international investor class has been why should we pay? Why should we invest in the EU, if we can outsource labor to countries which have no social safety net? Care less about the quality of their environs than lining their own pockets. Why should we care? Especially if our profits at the end of the day are higher? I think that’s the Capitalist Way. Should that be the American Way?

        1. paulyz June 26, 2016

          Why do you continue to live in a Capitalist society like the U.S.? I need to correct that, our ONCE Capitalist Country. Hundreds of years of Capitalism created a HUGE Middle-Class, bringing prosperity to Millions. Many immigrants did whatever they could to get here to be a part of it, many leaving Socialist countries where they were more a Slave of the State, no upward mobility. These Socialist & Communist Countries have mostly collapsed, whereas Capitalist Western Civilization flourished. But Socialism has taken it’s toll on Europe, & the EU hasn’t been the utopia Liberals thought. Now Britons got their Country & more will follow. Maybe soon France will leave the EU, “FREXIT”? MILLIONS have seen the failures & misery of globalism, loss of sovereignty & self-determination. Liberals for decades have labeled this completely normal desire of Peoples, Nationalism, trying to put a negative connotation on it, like they always do, to transform others to what THEY think is the “correct” way.

  1. Dominick Vila June 24, 2016

    The immediate consequence of this decision includes the British pound taking a hit, the EU economy – and Britain’s, taking a hit, and global trade taking a hit.

    1. charleo1 June 24, 2016

      It’s true, that we don’t yet understand just what the consequences will be. What the new rules of the road will be as far as trade, and finance. And perhaps, the largest ramification is yet to be seen. As to whether this spells a beginning of the end of a United Europe. The only certainty today, is uncertainty. And that is clobbering the Markets, and will cost the Global Capitalist billions. And that, I fear could lead to the most harmful consequence of all. To an irreversible trend of preference by a rattled, global investor class, toward autocratic economies on the model of Communist China’s. Where unlike in democracies, the shifting sands of politics can and often do interrupt well laid plans. Powerful governing bodies that derive their power at the point of a gun, can offer a stable platform, and so, reliable long term profits for the corporate stockholder.

      1. Dominick Vila June 24, 2016

        I think it is important to consider the most important reasons for the decision taken by most Britons. Pretending that the decision was influenced by a desire to keep immigrants out is an over simplification. Many British people resented the idea of having to comply with socio-economic and tax policies imposed by politicians in Brussels that they did not elect, and did not agree with. Many resented the financial burden of having to bail out weaker European economies, instead of investing at home. Many were upset by the impact of EU austerity measures on their social programs, and many considered the meddling of Brussels in their internal affairs a loss of sovereignty.
        The greatest impact of this decision is the probability of other EU countries doing the same. France may be one of them.

        1. charleo1 June 25, 2016

          Those are valid points. Even the points on unfettered immigration, and open borders are valid, given the circumstances. The specter of terrorism being only one of the concerns. But an important one, because it seems to have driven the secessionist movement to winning numbers.
          But what is most troubling for me, is what Britain’s leaving will mean, at least in the short term, is a weaker, less united, Europe, and that translating into a weaker U.S., and a stronger hand for totalitarian regimes, where such political curveballs are far less likely.
          The rub being, the people of Britain may have just made their long term economic prospects much worse. Today the economic center of gravity in Europe has shifted completely to Germany. The source of the largest investments to save the EU. And by no accident, the Nation accepting the largest number of refugees out of Syria. And now the people of Germany might rightly ask the Merkel Adm., for what? As factions in France, and other EU Nations ask for their own referendums, voicing the same concerns.
          Indeed, the situation calls into question whether the idea of such a coalition, into which has gone so much effort, was even doable, or smart in the first place. And if not, what now?

    2. FT66 June 24, 2016

      Dominick, it won’t take that long. First of all I give the Britons just only three months to start feeling the pinch. The new Import & Exports Agreements will be signed within six months, the problem will be in both sides losing a lot of jobs.

  2. A_Real_Einstein June 24, 2016

    The establishment loses again. Dems better wake up and nominate Bernie if they want victory in November. Read the tea leaves already.

    1. jmprint June 24, 2016

      You can’t win, by running scared. Give it up already.

      1. A_Real_Einstein November 13, 2016

        You missed it. I didn’t. Maybe it is time to start listening to Bernie now.

        1. jmprint November 13, 2016

          Hillary would have won if the FBI wasn’t in cohoots with the Russians in giving the republicans all our voice.

  3. InformedVoter June 24, 2016


  4. 788eddie June 24, 2016

    We’re going to be hearing from a lot of Republicans today desperately trying to explain how this is somehow President Obama’s fault (everything “bad,” after all, is according to them). You have permission to laugh when you hear or read it.

    The cause of the British vote to exit the Common Market, as well as the possible financial “dislocations” to come lies with George W. Bush and the Cheney neocons. As Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Colin Powell warned G.W. about entering Iraq in support of their “regime change” policy, “You break it, you bought it.”

    In simple terms, the development goes like this: the regime that controlled Iraq was undesirable, but stable. Saddam Hussein kept unfriendly factions within his country from pulling the country apart, and he was also a counter-force to Iran, with whom Iraq had been at war for years.

    The neocons engineered the American public into believing that Saddam Hussein was actively developing nuclear weapons, and therefor a threat to the U.S. The second mistake the neocons pushed for was the dismantling of the armed forces of Iraq after U.S. forces won. As a result of the previously-in-control sunnis being disenfranchised, extreme forces within the sunni community directly gave rise to ISIS (or whatever acronym you wish to use).

    ISIS caused such disruption, both in Iraq and Syria, that millions of innocent people in both countries fled for their lives. Since the Arabian countries (notably Saudi Arabia) weren’t accepting these refugees, huge numbers of refugees headed toward Europe. With the “no-internal-borders” policy of the European Union, once inside Europe, refugees sped to all corners of the Common Market countries. The influx of refugees was just too disruptive for many Britons to handle.

    And so; “Brexit.”

    Thank you, George W. Bush. Thank you Dick Cheney. Thank you neocons.

    Colin Powell was right; “You break it, you bought it.”

    1. Rightazz June 24, 2016

      Can you share some of what you have been smoking

      1. 788eddie June 24, 2016

        INSULT ALERT!!

        Typically the type of response one gets from the right.

        Next time, try fact-based logic/

  5. 788eddie June 24, 2016

    I find it amusing that the only response to Otto T. Goat below is a “spammer.”

    Way to attract fans, Otto!

  6. Rightazz June 24, 2016

    The citizens vote their wants the majority rules, the wealthy threaten them with poverty. Cameron cries like a child and resigns. Right or wrong congratulations to the UK citizens

  7. FT66 June 25, 2016

    Britain pulling out of EU is not a major thing. Ever since they isolated themselves to join other European countries. According to history books there was something known as EEC (European Economic Community) which turned to be called EC. EEC consisted of only five countries: West Germany, France,Italy, Netherlands and Belgium. (just google European Economic Community and you will get the real picture). During the sixties, the then France President called Charles de Gaulle vetoed Britain to join the Community. It was mainly because of selfishness and Britain refusing to change to “Metric System” they stuck up to now in using: pints, miles, pounds and not kilos etc. etc. The EEC did very well through the ninenties without Britain until when EC changed to EU and Britain joined. May be the EU can go back to EC by eliminating some countries that are not really producing much to the Community, just only to be members and get helped once they are in trouble, as Greece did.


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