The “Brexit” fallout is starting: The historic decision to leave the 28-nation European Union Thursday first resulted in British Prime Minister David Cameron resigning and stock markets around the world plummeting.
“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 Friday 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.”
In a bitterly divided referendum, 52 per cent of UK voters – led by an overwhelming majority of voters over the age of 50 – who cast a ballot in favour of leaving the EU.
The Scottish National Party government said a new Scottish vote on independence is “highly likely” after Britain’s decision to leave the EU.
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she wanted to make it clear to the EU that Scotland voted to stay.
In Northern Ireland, where most voters also wanted to remain in the EU, Sinn Fein, the country’s largest Irish nationalist party, called for a vote to unite the two sides of the Irish border.
“The British government now has no democratic mandate to represent the views of the North in any future negotiations with the European Union and I do believe that there is a democratic imperative for a ‘border poll’ to be held,” Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness told national Irish broadcaster RTE.
“The implications for all of us on the island of Ireland are absolutely massive. This could have very profound implications for our economy (in Northern Ireland).”
From France to Greece to the Netherlands, leaders of Europe’s far-right parties hailed the Brexit as a victory for their own anti-immigration and anti-EU policies.
Marine Le Pen of France’s Front National has been calling for a French-EU referendum for three years and applauded Britain’s decision.
“Victory for liberty!” she wrote on Twitter. “As I have asked for years, we must now have the same referendum in France and in the countries of the European Union.”
In the Netherlands, Dutch anti-immigration leader Geert Wilders called for a referendum on Dutch membership of the EU.
“We want be in charge of our own country, our own money, our own borders, and our own immigration policy,” he said in a statement. “As quickly as possible the Dutch need to get the opportunity to have their say about Dutch membership of the European Union.”
In Athens, Golden Dawn, a notoriously violent right wing party, cheered the referendum result, predicting it would further empower “nationalist forces” across Europe.
“Golden Dawn welcomes the victory of the nationalist and patriotic forces in Great Britain against the European Union, which has been transformed into the doleful instrument of loan sharks,” said party leader Nikolaos Michaloliakos in a statement.
Nigel Farage, leader of the right-wing U.K. Independence Party, called the result “a victory for ordinary people against the big banks, big business and big politics.”
Farage had been strongly criticized for fueling racism and xenophobia in the lead up to the referendum.
There’s been a lot of talk about Article 50 in the hours since the Brexit votes were tallied. So what is it? Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty sets out the process of a country leaving the EU begins the legal process.
Article 50 would begin a series of negotiations about how to extricate the U.K. as a member state from the different EU structures to which it is a party.
No country has ever invoked the law and the U.K. is entering unchartered territory.
Under Article 50, a member state seeking to leave the EU first has to send an official statement to the European Council explaining that it plans to exit.
Britain would negotiate the technical details with the European Commission and has two years to reach an agreement on the exit. During this time the U.K. would still be governed by E.U. treaties and laws, but not be allowed in the decision-making process.
*With files from the Associated Press