In what is already hailed as a vote of historic consequences for Europe, UK voters decided for their country to leave the European Union. According to the official results, the “Leave” campaign won by 17,410,742 votes (51.89%), to the “Remain” front’s 16,141,241 (48.11%). 

“Let June 23 go down in our history as our independence day,” said Nigel Farage, leader of the UK Independent Party (UKIP), and one of the leaders of the “Brexit” campaign, along with the former Mayor of London, Boris Johnson. Claiming the result as “a  victory for real people, a victory for ordinary people, a victory for decent people,” Farage asked for 24 June do be declared a national holiday, called “Independence day”. He then went on calling for a new “Brexit government” to lead the country out of the EU. Hailing the outcome as an opportunity for the UK to wrest control from Brussels and stem immigration, he said: “We need negotiations to start as soon as humanly possible”. 

That might take a while though. Given that no states have ever left the E.U. before, this is uncharted territory. According to the Lisbon Treaty, a country deciding to leave the Union  would have two years to negotiate the terms of departure and organise new trading arrangements with the remaining members (as well as with hundreds of other countries).


The fact that both major parties in the UK campaigned for the country to remain in the EU, means that political instability should be expected. The referendum signalled a major blow to David Cameron, especially considering that he was elected, conceding to eurosceptics and promising a vote to determine the country’s future. During the campaign, Mr Cameron insisted that he would not quit as prime minister in the event of a leave vote. However, on the aftermath of the results, he announced his resignation. “I will do everthing 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.

This is not a decision I have taken lightly. But I do believe it’s in the national interest to have a period of stability and then the new leadership required. There is no need for a precise timetable today. But in my view we should aim to have a new prime minister in place by the start of the Conservative party conference in October”.

Also campaigning for the “Remain” vote was leader of the opposition, Jeremy Corbyn, who noted that the decision of the British people should be respected. According to the Labour party leader, the referendum’s message is that “many communities are fed up with cuts they’ve had… and the way they’ve been marginalised by successive governments.” He then went on saying that all efforts must be made to protect jobs and working conditions in Britain, as the country enters negotiations. “There must be the best deal possible” to protect British industries, “but we are in some very difficult areas”, he added.


One of the most difficult, is the downward plunge of the British Pound. As the Brexit vote firmed, the British pound sold off at an extraordinary rate, dropping more than 11.4 per cent on the day’s high against the US dollar to reach a 30-year low. 

More than £120bn has been wiped off the FTSE 100 at the start of trading. It had closed up 1.23 per cent before the vote result became apparent, and is expected to sell off heavily on Monday, with futures pricing down 8.7 per cent. The US dollar appreciated against every major currency except the Japanese yen, as traders sought safe-haven assets. The Australian dollar fell 4.2 per cent against the US dollar by 2.15pm AEST, and Australian shares fell heavily with the ASX200 index down 3.35 per cent mid-afternoon.

“The impact on Australia immediately, directly, from a legal point of view, will be very limited because it will take some years for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union, to negotiate an exit”, said Malcolm Turnbull. “However, we’ve seen already large falls on stock markets and there will be a degree of uncertainty for some time.”

Europe is watching this unravel with concern. “We respect the result. We have clarity for the UK to go its own way”, said Martin Schulz, president of the European Parliament. “Now is the time for us to behave seriously and responsibly. (…) You can see what is happening to sterling on the markets. I don’t want the same thing to happen to the euro. “


The result has also been a major blow to the European Union as a whole, undermining an institution that has helped keep peace in Europe for half a century. The result is seen as a victory for Eurosceptics around the Union. A recent survey for Pew Research found that in France, a founder member and long a strong supporter, only 38% of people still hold a favourable view of the EU, six points lower than in Britain. “As I have been asking for years, now we need to have the same referendum in France and in the countries of the EU”, said Marine Le Pen, leader of the Front National in France. 

The sentiment is shared in other countries, as well. In Italy and Greece, where the economies are weak, they fume over German-imposed austerity and in eastern Europe traditional nationalists blame the EU for imposing cosmopolitan values like gay marriage.

Especially in Greece, the impact of Brexit could be to cause damage to the fragile economy, but also to revive fears for a “Grexit”, with Greece ultimately being forced out of the eurozone and perhaps even the EU. 

For the time being, all eyes in Greece are on the pound, as British holidaymakers, who make up the largest contingent of foreign visitors, may be deterred from coming because it will now be more expensive. 

In the longer term, by removing itself from the E.U. market, the U.K. loses the free trade privileges it enjoyed. Conversely, the E.U. loses the second-largest contributor to its operating budget, and nearly 15 percent of its GDP.

Other issues would be procedural. The nearly 3 million people from other E.U. states who live in the U.K. and the 1.2 million British citizens living elsewhere in the E.U. (including retirees in Spain) now have to sort out their new immigration status. 

The leave campaign has given assurances that any new immigration system would not affect non-British EU citizens already in the country. But many think that this will is not the case. An Australian-style points system already exists for would-be immigrants from outside the European Economic Area and this could be applied to new applicants or even current residents.

The tier 2 visa system is the main route for visa applicants and operates on a points system similar to that of Australia with salary, English language fluency and other factors scored. After five years of continuous residency, visa holders can apply for the permanent right to remain in the country.

The tumbling of the pound to 30-year lows offered a taste of what is to come. As confidence plunges, Britain may well dip into recession. A permanently less vibrant economy means fewer jobs, lower tax receipts and, eventually, extra austerity. The result will also shake a fragile world economy. Scots, most of whom voted to Remain, may now be keener to break free of the United Kingdom, as they nearly did in 2014.