Brexit Britain: Cameron quits, Sturgeon calls for referendum and Corbyn faces calls to resign

Vote to leave the EU plunges Britain into economic and political turmoil

Oliver Wright
Political Editor
Friday 24 June 2016 11:38
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British politics has been plunged into turmoil after the country voted to sever its 44-year membership of the EU triggering the resignation of the Prime Minister and years of economic and political uncertainty.

David Cameron announced he would leave Downing Street within months saying the country would need “fresh leadership” to negotiate its exit from the European Union.

His decision fires the starting gun on a Tory Party leadership contest with Boris Johnson and the Home Secretary Theresa May as the early front runners to succeed him.

In Scotland, which voted to remain in the EU, the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said it was "democratically unacceptable" that Scotland would be taken out of the EU "against its will" and says she will take "all possible steps and explore all options" to secure its continuing place in the union.

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She said the option of a second independence referendum "must be on the table and it is on the table''.

Earlier, Boris Johnson – who many see as the most candidate to be the next Prime Minister – said Mr Cameron was a "brave and principled man".

Saying he was sad at the departure, Mr Johnson said Brexit gave the UK a "glorious opportunity" for a brighter future, and insisted that Britain would remain "a greater European power" outside the future Union of 27 nations

And in the Labour Party, a motion of no confidence in Jeremy Corbyn's leadership has been tabled for next week.

Margaret Hodge and Ann Coffey reportedly submitted the motion against their leader, who has been criticised for failing to sway Labour voters in favour of Remain.

One prominent backbench MP who believes that Corbyn should resign told The Independent: “I’m going to say so at the PLP (Parliamentary Labour Party). No doubt it will leak after the meeting.

“I don’t think that Jeremy Corbyn is the one most to blame for this. I’m absolutely furious with the Boris Johnsons who lied, and lied and lied – and people believed that eight million Turks were going to come here, they believed there would be £350 million for the NHS.

More than £100 billion was wiped off the FTSE 100 as the index fell more than 7%, while the pound also crashed 8% against the US dollar.

At one stage the pound fell to it lowest level against the dollar in recorded history in the wake of the unexpected vote while stock markets across Europe took a battering from worried investors.

Mr Cameron and the Governor of the Bank of England attempted to calm nerves insisting that they had been engaged in “extensive contingency planning” and would “not hesitate to take any additional measures” to ensure market stability.

Despite polls last night suggesting that Britain was poised to vote for remain it soon became clear when counting got underway that a political earthquake was unfolding.

Middle England joined forces with the country’s industrial heartlands of the North-east and North-west to comprehensively reject warnings of economic Armageddon and vote to leave.

In the final result 17.4 million people voted to leave compared to 16.1 million who voted to stay on a high turnout of 72 per cent.

While Scotland, Northern Ireland and London voted to remain, Wales, the Midlands, the North East and the South West all voted for Brexit.

Just over an hour after the result was officially declared Mr Cameron appeared outside Downing Street to announce he had told the Queen of his intention to resign as the country now needed “fresh leadership”.

Flanked by his wife and, at one stage close to tears, Mr Cameron said it would be wrong for him “to be the captain that steers our country to its next destination".

He announced that he would stay on in a caretaker capacity but expected a new leader to be in place by the time of the Conservative Party conference.

However it is likely to lead for calls for fresh general election to give voters a direct say on the team that will lead the Brexit negotiations.Importantly Mr Cameron said he would not invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty that will start the process of Brexit – leaving that decision to his successor in the autumn.

“We must now prepare for a negotiation with the European Union. Above all this will require strong, determined and committed leadership,” he said.

Corbyn says he won't resign

“I think the country requires fresh leadership to take it in this direction.

“I will do everything I can as Prime Minister to steady the ship over the coming weeks and months but I do not think it would be right for me to try to be the captain that steers our country to its next destination.”

Hinting at his deep disappointment with the result Mr Cameron insisted he had no regrets about the campaign he had led.

“I fought this campaign in the only way I know how, which is to say directly and passionately what I think and feel - head, heart and soul,” he said.

“I held nothing back, I was absolutely clear about my belief that Britain is stronger, safer and better off inside the European Union and I made clear the referendum was about this and this alone - not the future of any single politician including myself.

“But the British people have made a very clear decision to take a different path.”

The Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is also facing a challenge to his leadership as MPs furiously criticized his lack luster campaign that they blamed for high Brexit turn out in the party’s heartland.

Around 50 MPs are understood to be putting together a letter demanding a fresh leadership election.

Mr Corbyn rejected the criticism but admitted the leave vote would mean that there were "clearly some difficult days ahead".

In Brussels and across Europe there was deep shock at the result and fear that the Brexit contagion could spread.

The German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble said it was a “sad day for Europe” while European Council President Donald Tusk said grimly that “what doesn't kill you, makes you stronger.”

“There's no hiding the fact that we wanted a different outcome of yesterday's referendum,” he said.

'And there's no way of predicting all the political consequences of this event, especially for the UK. But for sure this is not a moment for hysterical reactions. We are determined to keep our unity as 27.”

The result will now trigger a formal process of British withdrawal from the European Union. A planned meeting of European leaders next week in Brussels will now become an emergency Brexit summit.

The Ukip leader Nigel Farage described the Brexit victory as “dawn was breaking on an independent United Kingdom”. Provocatively he said he hoped the vote would be a catalyst for the complete collapse of the European Union.

But the former Prime Minister Tony Blair said the referendum result has made him “sad for our country, for Europe, for the world” and he turned on Jeremy Corbyn for a “lukewarm” and backward-looking Labour campaign.

“I think the leadership of the Labour party was pretty lukewarm in its support for remain,” he said.

“I don’t think we mobilised our supporters to understand that this was not a protest vote against the government or indeed against the establishment.”

On a visit to Scotland the Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump declared it was “great thing” that the people of the UK had “taken back their country”.

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