James Tapsfield, et al., Daily Mail, June 23, 2016
While the country reflects on one of the most seismic political events Britain has experienced in peacetime, David Cameron closes the day knowing his time as Prime Minister is set to come to a dramatic end.
As the sun set on his day in politics Mr Cameron was flanked by his wife Samantha in Downing Street, and both fought back tears as he said he had been ‘proud’ to serve as PM for the past six years.
Some 24 hours after the referendum which is set to shape the nation for years to come, Mr Cameron today said it would not be right for him to be the ‘captain of the ship’ while the UK negotiated its exit from the EU.
And as voters changed the course of history, one of those who reigned victorious was former London Mayor Boris Johnson, who set out his claim that Britain now had an opportunity to re-establish itself on the world stage–and consequently made a pitch to be Prime Minister of a new ‘great’ Britain outside the EU.
Boris Johnson set out his vision for a revitalised, outward looking country in a speech just hours after his long-time rival tearfully declared that he would stand aside in the wake of the referendum Brexit vote.
But it immediately became clear that whoever is in Downing Street will face a struggle to hold the UK together–as SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon warned it was now ‘highly likely’ that a second ballot on independence will be held north of the border.
The developments came after the Leave campaign stacked up 52 per cent of the votes–despite massive support for Remain in Scotland and major cities including London.
The Bank of England governor Mark Carney has attempted to reassure panicking markets this morning after the Pound nose-dived to its lowest level against the US dollar for 31 years, and the FTSE slumped by 8 per cent. The index closed just 2.7 per cent down, as it recovered.
After his speech, Mr Cameron travelled to Buckingham Palace to discuss the results with the Queen.
Boris Johnson thanked voters for trusting his plan to leave the EU today and sought to reassure young Remain voters by saying we will be no less European despite cutting ties with Brussels.
He insisted there was no need for ‘haste’ in the process of officially withdrawing from the EU as he appealed for calm and sought to reassure fears over economic and political uncertainty.
After the EU referendum results delivered a shock win for Brexit in the early hours of this morning, Mr Johnson said the EU was ‘a noble idea for its time’ but was ‘not longer right for this country’.
Brussels was ‘too remote, too opaque and not not accountable enough to the people it is meant to serve,’ the former Mayor of London added as he hailed the ‘glorious opportunity’ that quitting the EU gave the UK.
President Barack Obama said the UK will remain an ‘indispensable partner’ of the United States following the Brexit vote in the referendum–even though he intervened in the campaign to say voting to leave would leave Britain at the ‘back of the queue’ for a trade deal.
Mr Obama said: ‘The people of the United Kingdom have spoken, and we respect their decision. The special relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom is enduring, and the United Kingdom’s membership in Nato remains a vital cornerstone of US foreign, security and economic policy.
‘So too is our relationship with the European Union, which has done so much to promote stability, stimulate economic growth, and foster the spread of democratic values and ideals across the continent and beyond.
‘The United Kingdom and the European Union will remain indispensable partners of the United States even as they begin negotiating their ongoing relationship to ensure continued stability, security and prosperity for Europe, Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and the world.’
The bombshell announcement came after possibly the most dramatic night Britain has experienced in peacetime. Among the biggest developments are:
- Leave ended up the clear winner in the EU referendum by 52 per cent to 48 per cent, after Remain’s strong performance in Scotland and big cities such as London failed to offset huge Brexit votes in England and Wales.
- David Cameron resigns as result was confirmed with Boris Johnson now the bookies’ favourite to replace him as Prime Minister
- Brexit sent the pound plunging against the US dollar, losing around 20 cents to hit its lowest level since 1985. The FTSE was also down as much as 7 per cent in morning trading. But it closed 2.7% down and pound also recovered
- Standard & Poor’s have also warned that Britain’s AAA credit rating looks ‘untenable’ in the wake of the Brexit vote.
- The Bank of England has moved to reassure investors that it will take ‘all necessary steps’, including £250bn to stabilise the economy.
- Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon said it was now ‘highly likely’ that a second independence referendum will be held
- European Council president Donald Tusk expressed sorrow at Brexit but insisted: ‘What doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger’
- German Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed ‘deep regret’ that the UK had chosen to leave, while French president Francois Hollande said negotiations over terms should start as quickly as possible.
- Tony Blair said the decision would have ‘vast’ political and economic consequences for the UK and all sides had to be ‘grown up’
- President Barack Obama said the UK will remain ‘indispensable partners’ of the United States–despite his earlier trade deal warning
Mr Johnson, who was booed and called a ‘tw*t’ by protesters as he left his home in central London this morning, started off his statement at the Vote Leave HQ in central London by paying tribute to his ‘extraordinary’ Tory colleague Mr Cameron.
The former London mayor stopped short of confirming that he would stand to succeed the PM–but made a pitch for people to help him forge a better future.
He also sought to soothe fears over the financial market panic that has greeted the historic result, stressing that nothing would change in the short term.
‘I want to begin by paying tribute to David Cameron who has spoken earlier form Downing Street. I know I speak for Michael when I say how sad I am he has decided to step down but obviously I respect that decision,’ Mr Johnson said.
‘I have known David Cameron for a very long time and I believe he has been one of the most extraordinary politicians of our age.
‘A brave and principled man whose given superb leadership of his party and his country for many years–reforming our public services, delivering one nation Conservative government, making this country the most dynamic economy in Europe and with his own brand of compassionate Conservatism that rightly earned him the first majority government for decades.’
Defending the Tory policy of holding the referendum, Mr Johnson said: ‘The rights of all of us to elect and remove the people who make the key decisions in their lives. I think the electorate have searched in their hearts and answered as honestly as they can.
‘They have decided it is time to vote to take back control.’
Mr Johnson said: ‘In voting to leave the EU it is vital to stress there is now no need for haste and, indeed, as the Prime minister has just said, nothing will change over the short term except that work will have to begin on how to give effect to the will of the people and to extricate this country from the supranational system.’
He also stressed that the PM had been ‘right’ to say he would not immediately trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty–the formal mechanism for leaving the EU.
‘To those who may be anxious, whether at home or abroad this does not mean the United Kingdom will be in any way less united. Nor, indeed, does it mean it will be any less European,’ Mr Johnson said.
‘I want to speak directly to the millions of people who did not vote for this outcome, especially young people, who may feel this decision in some way involves pulling up a draw bridge or any kind of isolationism.
‘I think the very opposite is true. We cannot turn our backs of Europe, we are part of Europe. Our children and our grandchildren will have a wonderful future as Europeans, travelling to the continent, understanding the languages, and cultures that make up our common European civilisation.’
Mr Johnson said he believed the country now had a ‘glorious opportunity’.
‘We can pass our laws, set our taxes, entirely according to the needs of the UK economy,’ he said.
‘We can control our own borders, in a way that is not discriminatory but fair, and balanced and take the wind out of the sales of the extremists and those who would play politics of immigration.
‘Above all, we can find our voice in the world again. A voice that is commensurate with the fifth biggest economy on earth–powerful, liberal, humane, an extraordinary force for good in the world.
‘And the most precious thing this country has given the continent is the idea of parliamentary democracy.’
Choking back tears, Mr Cameron–who led the Tories to a shock majority in the general election barely a year ago–said he would not depart immediately and would seek to ‘steady the ship’ and calm the financial markets over the coming ‘weeks and months’.
But he said a new Prime Minister should be in place for the Conservative Party conference at the beginning of October.
‘I held nothing back. I was absolutely clear about my belief that Britain is stronger, safer and better off inside the EU,’ he said.
‘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 and as such I think the country requires fresh leadership to take it in this direction.’
Emerging from Downing Street grim-faced and hand-in-hand with his wife, Mr Cameron stepped up to a government podium and said: ‘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.
‘This is not a decision I have 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 Prime Minister in place by the start of the Conservative Party conference in October.’
He added: ‘Delivering stability will be important. And I will continue in post as Prime Minister with my cabinet for the next three months.’
Mr Cameron said he had spoken to the Queen this morning to alert her to his decision. He also said he would not be triggering Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty but would instead leave it to his successor.
‘The negotiation with the EU will need to begin under a new Prime Minister and I think it is right this new Prime Minister takes the decision about when to trigger Article 50 and start the formal and legal process of leaving the EU,’ Mr Cameron said.
‘The British people have made a choice that not only needs to be respected but those on the losing side of the argument, myself included, should help to make it work.
‘Britain is a special country, we have so many great advantages–a Parliamentary democracy where we resolve great issues about our future through peaceful debate.
‘A great trading nation with our science and arts, our engineering and creativity, respected the world over.’And while we are not perfect, I do believe we can be a model of a multi racial, multi faith democracy where people can come and make a contribution and rise to the very highest their talent allows.’
He went on: ‘Although leaving Europe was not the path I recommended, I am the first to praise our incredible strengths. I have said before Britain can survive outside the EU and indeed that we could find a way.
‘Now the decision has been made to leave, we need to find the best way. I will do everything I can to help.
‘I love this country, and I feel honoured to have served it and I will do everything I can in future to help this great country succeed.’
Moments after Mr Cameron finished speaking, Mr Carney made a televised statement from the Bank of England in Threadneedle Street urging calm.
He said it was ‘inevitable’ there would be a period of ‘uncertainty’ in the wake of the Brexit vote, and admitted it would take ‘some time’ for the UK to forge new arrangements with the EU and the rest of the world.
But the governor–who previously warned that Brexit was the biggest domestic risk to the economy–insisted the Bank and the Treasury had been doing ‘extensive emergency planning’.
‘We are well prepared for this,’ he said.
And as the repercussions of the political earthquake reverberate through the nation–indeed the continent–Whitehall may be facing questions as to why it did not listen to the people on immigration–a massive and integral part of the debate for many.
Much of the evidence suggests immigration was one of the main reasons why many leavers voted to quit–with the biggest punches dealt by voters in the Midlands, Eastern England, Lincolnshire and Humberside–in areas where Eastern European immigration has been a huge concern.
Meanwhile, enraged Labour MPs today called for Jeremy Corbyn to resign over his failure to prevent a Brexit vote in yesterday’s historic EU referendum.
One Labour MP remarked today: ‘He is toast’ and called on the Shadow Cabinet to oust him immediately.
Calls for Mr Corbyn to follow the Prime Minister and fall on his sword have grown louder after as many as half of Labour voters abandoned the political mainstream to support the Leave campaign.
Grandee Dame Margaret Hodge has tabled a motion of no confidence in Mr Corbyn and if he does not leave of his own accord, he faces a secret ballot of MPs to overthrow him.
Mr Corbyn has never had significant support among Labour MPs and would be likely to lose a secret vote.
The Labour leader has faced repeated accusations he ran a limp, half-hearted campaign for Remain hampered by his long-held Euroscepticism.
Tony Blair said Brexit made him ‘sad for our country, for Europe, for the world’ as he hit out at Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour campaign today.
The former Prime Minister, a strong EU supporter, said: ‘There will be very big consequences and we need to think our way through those carefully. But there is no point in hiding it–for me this a very, very sad day.’
He blasted Labour’s Remain campaign, saying Mr Corbyn and his followers had not set out the ‘enormous consequences’ of quitting the EU.
Asked if the party’s leader should resign, Mr Blair said: ‘I think there are much, much bigger questions for the Labour Party right now. We’ve got to consider what our purpose is, where we are going and what we are trying to do here.’
A joint statement issued by EU leaders today expressed ‘regret’ over the UK’s decision. But they promised to respect the British people’s decision and called for negotiations to be launched ‘swiftly’.
French President François Hollande said he wanted the UK to start talks over its exit package negotiations ‘as soon as possible’, while German Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed her ‘great regret’.
The EU’s joint statement said: ‘In a free and democratic process, the British people have expressed their wish to leave the European Union. We regret this decision but respect it.
‘This is an unprecedented situation but we are united in our response. We will stand strong and uphold the EU’s core values of promoting peace and the well-being of its peoples.
‘The Union of 27 Member States will continue. The Union is the framework of our common political future.
‘We are bound together by history, geography and common interests and will develop our cooperation on this basis.
‘Together we will address our common challenges to generate growth, increase prosperity and ensure a safe and secure environment for our citizens. The institutions will play their full role in this endeavour.
‘We now expect the United Kingdom government to give effect to this decision of the British people as soon as possible, however painful that process may be. Any delay would unnecessarily prolong uncertainty.’
Eurosceptic parties across the continent are intensifying demands for their own referendums in the wake of the Brexit vote, as the repercussions of the political earthquake gradually become clear.
Shortly after the result was announced, Marine Le Pen, the leader of the Front National in France, called for a ‘Frexit’ vote on Twitter, while the far-Right Dutch firebrand Geert Wilders called for a ‘Nexit’.
In Italy the leader of the Italian anti-immigrant Northern League, Matteo Salvini, called the European Union ‘a cage of crazies’ that is killing jobs and citizen dignity.
And there are also fears that Brexit could also trigger a Czexit, a Swexit, and a Grexit in the Czech Republic, Sweden and Greece. Even if the union holds, the political earthquake that has erupted in Britain will have far-reaching aftershocks.