Britain has voted to leave the European Union in a referendum, with the result throwing into question the fate of the 28-nation bloc and Prime Minister David Cameron announcing he will step down by October.
The official results were announced on Friday with the Leave campaign receiving 52 percent in Thursday’s historic referendum.
Cameron, who had backed the campaign to remain in the EU, said the British people made “a very clear decision to take a different path”.
“As such, I think the country requires fresh leadership to take it in this direction. I will do everything I can as PM to steady the ship in 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’ve taken lightly, but I do believe it is 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 PM in place by the start of the conservative party conference in October,” a tearful Cameron said.
European Parliament President Martin Schulz said the EU assembly will hold an emergency session next week. France was also to hold an emergency cabinet meeting to discuss the impact of Britain’s exit.
Schulz said he would speak with German Chancellor Angela Merkel “on how we can avoid a chain reaction” of other EU states following the UK’s lead.
“The chain reaction that is being celebrated everywhere now by euroskeptics won’t happen,” Schulz said. “That’ll have consequences and I don’t believe other countries will be encouraged to follow that dangerous path.”
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier voiced regret over the decision, calling it a “sad day for Europe.”
Former Finnish Prime Minister Alexander Stubb described the ‘Leave’ vote as a bad nightmare, saying the development could lead to crisis and chaos.
Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Nurettin Canikli, whose country has long been pushing for a membership in the EU, said Britain’s vote marks the beginning of the disintegration of the bloc.
“We [get] our power from the nation. If the EU negotiation process [does not move forward], as President Erdogan tried to say, then we may ask the public whether we should continue negotiations,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told a news conference in Ankara on Thursday.
Far-right parties celebrate
Europe’s far-right parties praised the vote as a victory for their own anti-EU stance and vowed to push for similar referendums in their own countries.
President of France’s Front National (FN) Marine Le Pen welcomed the vote, describing it as “a victory for freedom.”
“Like a lot of French people, I’m very happy that the British people held on and made the right choice. What we thought was impossible yesterday has now become possible,” she said.
Far-righ Dutch MP Geert Wilders also called for the Netherlands to hold a referendum on whether to leave in the EU.
“The Dutch people deserve a referendum as well. The Party for Freedom consequently demands a referendum on NExit, a Dutch EU exit,” Wilders said in a statement.
Nigel Farage, leader of the UK’s Independence Party (UKIP), also hailed the Brexit win as the country’s “independence day.”
“The dawn is breaking on an independent United Kingdom,” Farage said, adding, “Let June 23 go down in our history as our independence day!”
The top anti-EU campaigner also said the European Union is dying. He said Britain has left behind a failing political union.
Madrid urges ‘Spanish flag on Gibraltar’
Spain said Friday it was closer to bringing Gibraltar under its control after Britain voted to leave the European Union.
The two countries have been locked in a long-running dispute over Gibraltar. The UK has always insisted Gibraltar is rightfully British. The Spanish government maintains the territory is Spain’s.
Gibraltar, with a population of over 30,000, is located on the southern tip of the Iberian Peninsula and has an area of 6.7 square kilometers (2.6 square miles).
“Our formula… is British-Spanish co-sovereignty for a determined period of time, which after that time has elapsed, will head towards the restitution of Gibraltar to Spanish sovereignty,” Spain’s acting Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo told Spanish radio.
But Britain’s Minister for Europe David Lidington sought to ease concerns in the 33,000-strong territory.
“I want to be absolutely clear. The United Kingdom will continue to stand beside Gibraltar,” he said in a statement.
“We will never enter into arrangements under which the people of Gibraltar would pass under the sovereignty of another state against your wishes.”
Gibraltar’s defense and foreign relations issues are supervised by British authorities.
Since 1989, British military aircraft have been banned from flying over or landing in Spain if their final destination is Gibraltar.
It is highly uncertain of what will come next, but what is certain is that the people of Britain have spoken.