United Kingdom withdrawal from the European Union
A referendum was held on Thursday 23 June, to decide whether the UK should leave or remain in the European Union. Leave won by 52% to 48%. After a hard-fought debate, voters in Britain decided the U.K. should leave the European Union in a historic referendum.
England voted strongly for Brexit (shorthand way of saying the United Kingdom leaving the EU – merging the words Britain and exit), by 53.4% to 46.6%, as did Wales, with Leave getting 52.5% of the vote and Remain 47.5%. Scotland and Northern Ireland both backed staying in the EU. Scotland backed Remain by 62% to 38%, while 55.8% in Northern Ireland voted Remain and 44.2% Leave.
Prime Minister David Cameron, who brought the referendum to bear as a campaign promise and then fought hard for the Remain side, said outside his official residence on Friday that the result must be respected. Cameron admitted defeat, saying he would step down as Prime Minister within three months.
The Brexit victory sent economic shockwaves through global markets and UK stocks today had their worst drop since the financial crisis. This morning the pound fell to its lowest level since 1985 and emergency steps are now being taken to calm the economic turmoil.
There is uncertainty over what will happen when Britain leaves the EU because it has to make new trade agreements with the rest of the world. Supporters of Brexit argue that EU countries have every incentive keep trading with the UK, which is a large importer of goods and services. Economists said the United Kigndom vote to withdraw from the EU was likely to immediately hurt the British economy.