Cameron to quit as prime minister following Brexit bombshell
David Cameron has announced he will resign as Prime Minister following Britain’s shock decision to leave the European Union.
Addressing the nation on the steps of 10 Downing Street, Mr Cameron said the people had spoken and because of his passionate support for the EU he would not be the right person to lead exit negotiations.
It would not be right for him to remain as “the captain of the ship” steering Britain to its next destination.
The Prime Minister said he had spoken to the Queen this morning to inform her of his intention to stand down.
With his wife Samantha standing next to him, a clearly emotional Mr Cameron effectively triggered a Conservative leadership contest, confirming that he hoped a new prime minister could be in place by the time of the Tory party conference in October, in Birmingham.
Mr Cameron made it clear he would not formally trigger Article 50 of the EU treaties signalling Britain’s intention to leave. That will be a matter for his successor, with Boris Johnson emerging as front-runner.
Many Tories urged Mr Cameron to stay on with 84 pro-Brexit Tory MPs signing a letter shortly after the polls closed urging him to lead exit talks.
But the unexpected result of the referendum and the immediate aftermath, with the Ftse share index crashing by seven points and sterling plummeting, left Mr Cameron with little choice.
With all of the results counted, 17.4 million people voted to leave (52%) and 16.1 million to remain (48%). Turnout was 72 per cent.
The strongest support for Brexit was in the largely Labour voting Midlands and the North East.
England voted by 53 to 47 per cent to leave the EU. The West Midlands voted to leave by 59 to 41 per cent. London was the only region of England to vote to stay in the EU.
Birmingham, a city where the Remain camp was confident of victory, saw the Leave side triumph, but only just with 50.4 per cent for Brexit and 49.6 per cent for remain.
Scotland and Northern Ireland were the only parts of the UK to vote to remain – Scotland by 62 to 38 per cent and Northern Ireland by 56 to 44 per cent.
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said it was clear that Scotland wanted to remain in the European Union, opening up the possibility of a second Scottish independence referendum.
It became clear at about 4.40am that Britain had voted to leave the EU, albeit by a small four per cent majority. Almost immediately, the pound plummeted and shares in Far East markets sank. Sterling fell by 10 per cent against the dollar, the biggest fall in more than 30 years, and seven per cent against the euro.
Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England, said he was watching events “very carefully”.
Mr Carney said he had undertaken extensive contingency planning and was working closely with the Treasury.
The Bank will be concerned about inflation if Sterling continues to fall, as imports to Britain become far more expensive.
Senior Tory MP Dr Liam Fox, a leading Brexit campaigner, appealed for calm and urged Mr Cameron to stay on as prime minister to lead the UK’s exit negotiations. “We don’t want political instability”, he added.
Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said voters had “spoken clearly” and the Government’s job was to get on with implementing the decision.
Mr Hammond said Mr Cameron “will carry out the instructions of the British people”, but an hour later the prime minister said he would quit.
The Government had to negotiate “the very best terms we can possibly get for leaving the European Union”.
Gisela Stuart, the Labour MP for Birmingham Edgbaston and chair of the Leave campaign, described the result as “exciting and liberating”. Mrs Stuart said the people had given their verdict and called for a period of calm while negotiations for an exit take place.
She called for cross-party cooperation in conducting exit talks.
The role played by Labour supporters in the Midlands and the North of England in delivering Brexit is bound to put pressure on party leader Jeremy Corbyn, who was widely accused of lacklustre support for remaining in the EU during the referendum campaign.
Diane Abbott, shadow international development secretary and a close confidant of Mr Corbyn, said the result amounted to a “roar of defiance against Westminster”. Ms Abbott added that “Labour voters” had helped deliver Brexit and “we have to listen to them”.
Mr Corbyn said: “The British people have made their decision. We must respect the result.”
The Labour leader distanced himself from many senior Labour figures by insisting that Article 50 of the European Union treaties should be invoked “now”, formally triggering a two year exit negotiation process.
He added that the referendum result was an indication that communities in poorer areas were “fed up” with public spending cuts and felt they had been marginalised by successive governments.
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