The United Kingdom has voted to leave the European Union in what is being seen as a political earthquake. Just over 52 per cent* of Britons expressed their desire to exit the EU in a referendum on Thursday. Currency markets were immediately affected as the British pound fell to its lowest level against the dollar since 1985. Britain's decision to leave has caused political upheaval. Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to stay in the EU and so politicians in both countries are now contemplating breaking from the UK. Right-wing politicians in Europe congratulated the UK for leaving. One said: "It is Great Britain's independence day. The people were asked, and they decided. The European Union as a political union has failed."
The magnitude of the result was summed up by Rob Ford, professor of politics at Manchester University, who said: "This is the biggest shock to European politics since the fall of the Berlin Wall." The vote has already prompted Britain's leader David Cameron to resign. He led the campaign to stay part of the EU and will step down in October. He said the country needed "fresh leadership". Less certain is the plight of the 3.3 million non-British EU citizens living in Britain, and the 1.3 million Britons living in other EU countries. Others may follow the UK's lead in exiting the EU. Representatives from Holland's Dutch Freedom Party and France's National Front Party said: "Now it is our turn."
* Correction: 51.8% of those who voted in the referendum.