LONDON, June 24 (UPI) — British voters narrowly backed a historic plan to sever ties with the European Union, shattering the United Kingdom’s 43-year membership and triggering political and financial upset globally.
The overwhelming Leave vote was the biggest upheaval in the European political establishment in decades made more significant when British Prime Minister David Cameron announced he will step down in October. President Barack Obama, who campaigned firmly against Brexit in the past months, said the exit will not affect the “special relationship” between the two countries, adding the UK’s membership in NATO “remains a vital cornerstone of U.S. foreign, security and economic policy.”
“So too is our relationship with the European Union, which has done so much to promote stability, stimulate economic growth, and foster the spread of democratic values and ideals across the continent and beyond,” he said. “The United Kingdom and the European Union will remain indispensable partners of the United States even as they begin negotiating their ongoing relationship to ensure continued stability, security, and prosperity for Europe, Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and the world.”
The vote in favor of “Brexit,” or Britain leaving the European Union, won with 51.9 percent to 48.1 percent of the vote. Voter turnout was high at more than 71 percent. Some voters reporting being turned away.
Some of the wrath over the Brexit vote is falling on Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn, criticized by his party for a lackluster effort to stop the exit. Two Labour Party members, Ann Coffey and Margaret Hodge, submitted a vote of no-confidence that will be considered on Monday. Corbyn has not commented and has canceled public appearances.
Reaction to the vote was felt in currency markets also, with the British Pound plummeting to a 31-year low.
Jeremy Cook, chief economist and head of currency strategy at WorldFirst was pessimistic. He said, “Sterling has collapsed … It can go a lot further as well.”
London, Northern Ireland and Scotland were staunchly in support of staying in the EU, but northern England, Wales and the English shires supported Brexit by strong margins.
UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage has campaigned for Brexit for 20 years and predicted early Thursday Britain would likely vote to remain. But later told supporters “this will be a victory for ordinary people, for decent people” and that Thursday, 23 June would “go down in history as our independence day.”
With Scotland’s overwhelming vote to remain, Scottish nationalists have said they will call for a new referendum for Scottish independence, so they can join the EU on their own. Scots voted to remain with the United Kingdom in the 2014 referendum.
Leaders in Northern Ireland are also going to call for a referendum on joining the rest of Ireland, which is part of the EU.
“There is clearly a democratic imperative for a border poll in the North.”