London: The camp in favour of Britain’s exit from the European Union (EU) was leading by four percentage points over the Remain camp with over 70 per cent of results declared in the referendum today as a BBC forecast said the results were for ‘Brexit’.
The “too-close-to-call and knife-edge” prediction of the opinion polls seemed to hold true as Leave grabbed 52 per cent of the vote to Remain’s 48 per cent with over 70 per cent of the results in.
The BBC said that the trends indicated that the Remain side could not regain from this position and the 52-48 per cent count in favour of Brexit is likely to be the final verdict of the British voters.
Far-right UK Independence Party (UKIP) leader Nigel Farage declared victory much earlier, saying: “Dare to dream that the dawn is breaking on an independent United Kingdom June 23 will be our Independence Day.”
The vote – which saw an extremely high turnout of around 72 per cent – reverses the public verdict back in 1975, when the UK voted to remain a member of then European Economic Community, which later became the EU.
The argument swiftly moved to the future and what happens next in the event of a Brexit vote.
While the result of a referendum is not legally binding on the UK government, David Cameron has repeatedly promised that the will of the people will be accepted.
In the immediate aftermath, Britain will remain a member of the EU and nothing will change instantly.
The British Prime Minister has pledged to activate Article 50 of the 2009 Lisbon Treaty as soon as possible if the result of the referendum is to leave the EU.
The Article begins negotiations with the EU’s 27-member states for the UK’s exit. That process could take two years or longer, with scope to extend the negotiation period if all parties agree.
Once Article 50 has been triggered, the only way back into the EU is with the agreement of all member states.
Earlier, Gibraltar had been the first of the 382 local counting areas to declare, voting overwhelmingly in favour of staying in the EU, as had been expected.
The territory on Spain’s southern tip voted 95.9 per cent “Remain”, against just 4.09 per cent 823 votes for Brexit.
In terms of broad trends, the vote reflected a very divided country with north-east England and Wales backing Brexit, while Scotland and Northern Ireland appear to have opted for Remain.
The markets reacted to the uncertainty with the pound surging as the polls closed last night, before falling dramatically to its lowest point since the 1980s.