Proving bookmakers and opinion polls wrong again, Britain looked set to leave the European Union on Friday morning, spawning a range of issues and implications at the national and international levels, with the pound taking an immediate hit.
The final result of Thursday’s referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU was yet to be declared but with 330 of 382 counting stations declaring the result, the overall outcome is expected to be to leave the EU.
The outcome placed the political future of Prime Minister David Cameron in doubt, along with talk of a possible mid-term election. Cameron has insisted that he would stay in the job to implement the verdict, whichever way it goes.
The outcome is also likely to pose a challenge to the EU, with some member-states considering similar referendums. Top leader of the EU were expected to make a statement in Brussels on the outcome that many hoped would return the Remain outcome.
As Nigel Farage, leader of UK Independence Party called June 23 Britain’s ‘independence day’, senior Labour and Remain leaders Keith Vaz and Chuka Umunna called the outcome a “seismic” and “terrible” event.
Cameron was expected to make a statement outside 10, Downing Street, with the Bank of England following with announcement of measures to deal with the situation in the world of finance.
As leading lights of the Remain and Leave camps termed Brexit as an opportunity or disaster, Britain as a country appeared divided down the middle with the difference between the two votes barely 4 or 5 per cent.
The value of sterling slumped on currency markets as the pound fell nearly 8% at $1.37, compared with $1.50 just after polling stations closed. The fall, which stunned investors, was its biggest ever one-day fall since 1985.
Financial observers ranked with the pound reaction to the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008 and Britain’s exit in 1992 from the European exchange rate mechanism on Black Wednesday.