David Cameron has resigned as Prime Minister after Britain voted to leave the European Union.
It followed a turbulent night with Remain campaigners quietly confident until the early hours when results from Newcastle and Sunderland showed better than expected returns for the Brexit camp.
A surprise victory for a Brexit in Swansea, which was expected to vote to Remain, did little to dampen concerns despite Scotland overwhelmingly backing staying in the Union.
Other votes in Wales began to show a trend towards a surprise Leave vote, particularly in deprived communities.
Big wins for David Cameron’s campaign in London and Oxford did little to allay fears that early predictions had been wrong, as the pound began to tank – down by 6% by around 1pm.
Leave passed the finishing post just after 6am, as it became clear that nothing could swing the vote back in favour of the Remain campaign.
With the Leave campaign securing 52 per cent of the vote, Mr Cameron addressed the nation in an emotional speech outside 10 Downing Street to announce that he would be stepping down.
London backed Remain but the turnout was lower than expected because of bad weather.
Meanwhile on the market, the FTSE 250 index has plunged a whopping 11.7pc. The index of so-called mid-cap companies had dropped an astonishing 2,017 points to 15,309 in the first few minutes of trading.
What does the vote mean for Europe?
As the UK gulps down reassuring cups of tea in a bid to try and get our heads around a Brexit vote, our Europe editor Peter Foster ponders what it all means for Europe.
Optimists will see Brexit as a trigger for a new beginning for Europe; a shock therapy that acknowledges the failures of the current arrangements and tries to seek a new mode of governing that better acknowledges national realities while preserving Europe’s open markets, borders and skies.
But no one should underestimate the difficulty of that, given the incoherence of populist political narratives that – as a new European Council on Foreign Relations survey shows – fundamentally want less global trade and more borders; less multi-culturalism and more EU disintegration.
The unavoidable reality is that as globalisation continues, in terms of trade share, innovation capacity and population, Europe is shrinking relative to the rest of the world.
The truly existential crisis for Europe is therefore how to combat that intoxicating populist narrative and drive through the kind of structural economic reforms that will prevent Europe (as distinct from the EU) from sliding into irrelevance and geo-political old age.
In the end, pragmatism and incrementalism may simply not be enough if Europe – to quote a senior German politician I spoke with recently – wants to be more than a museum where Asians and American come on holiday.
Will the UK continue to be a member of Nato?
Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the Nato secretary general, has issued an extraordinary statement on Brexit, Matthew Holehouse writes.
It insists that the UK will “remain a strong and committed Nato Ally”. This is clearly wishful thinking.
Trident, the territorial integrity of the UK, and the ability of the public finances to sustain the current defence commitments are in serious jeopardy.
Mr Fogh Rasmussen said: “The British people have decided to leave the European Union. As it defines the next chapter in its relationship with the EU, I know that the United Kingdom’s position in NATO will remain unchanged.
“The UK will remain a strong and committed NATO Ally, and will continue to play its leading role in our Alliance.
“Today, as we face more instability and uncertainty, NATO is more important than ever as a platform for cooperation among European Allies, and between Europe and North America.
“A strong, united and determined NATO remains an essential pillar of stability in a turbulent world, and a key contributor to international peace and security.
“The Alliance remains committed to closer cooperation with the European Union. At the Warsaw Summit in July, we will step up our cooperation, because together we are more effective in upholding our common values and keeping our nations safe.”
Is the vote legally binding?
As the dust begins to settle (at least for us hacks who have been up all night watching) we’re beginning to ask questions about what the vote actually means.
There are also big questions about how Vote Leave plan to halt EU migration, something they promised to do soon after an Out vote; whether the £350million will really go to the NHS after Nigel Farage suggested it might not and when the leaving process will be triggered.
The EU reacts to UK Brexit vote
Poland’s foreign minister said the British leave vote “is bad news for Europe and bad news for Poland”, Matthew Day writes.
Britain leaving the EU would deprive Poland’s euro-sceptic of a key alley in Brussels, casts a huge cloud of uncertainty over the status of hundreds of thousands of Poles working in the UK.
“First it means destabilisation for the UK. There is a great dilemma for the euro-crats: we all want to keep the EU, but in what shape.”
Viktor Orban, the Hungarian prime minister, said Brussels must now listen to the voice of the people and that is “the biggest lesson” of the referendum.
Tomas Prouza, the Czech secretary of state for EU affairs, said: “I’m sad that fear-mongering has won over reason and the willingness to face the world together.
“However, we have to respect fully the result, and have a thorough soul-searching on how to make Europe understandable again to the people.
“Many across the EU have lost faith, preferring nationalists and xenophobes, and we need to work very hard to explain why Europe still makes sense.
Senior Merkel ally suggests Scotland could join EU
A senior ally of Angela Merkel has opened the door to Scotland joining the EU, Matthew Holehouse writes.
Manfred Weber, the leader of the conservative bloc in the European parliament who is close to Merkel, says there are “upcoming decisions on the national levels” for Scotland and Northern Ireland “to go another way.”
“It is up to them but Europe to welcome new member states. That is totally clear. Those who want to stay are welcomed in the European Union.”
European Parliament President calls emergency meeting over UK vote Play!
He says Article 50 talks must begin “immediately”. “We cannot wait for a Tory party to elect a new prime minister.”
“We have the will of the British people on the table. The question is now to implement it. We must do this very quickly. The continent of Europe cannot be occupied by an internal Tory party battle of who is the next leader of Great Britain.”
“This is a British problem,” he says, noting that the pound is tanking but not the Euro. “Britain has a bigger problem than the European Union.”
Donald Trump: Brexit vote is ‘a great thing’
Donald Trump, the US presidential hopeful, has arrived in the UK and said he is “very happy” about the Brexit vote.
Presidential hopeful Donald Trump said it is a “great thing” that the people of the UK have “taken back their country” in voting to leave the EU, as he touched down at his golf resort in Scotland, Simon Johnson writes.
The billionaire arrived in his “Trump” emblazoned helicopter at the Turnberry resort in South Ayrshire to officially open the revamped resort he bought in 2014, just an hour after Prime Minister David Cameron said he intended to stand down in October.
He gave a thumbs-up as he left his helicopter and shook hands with workers on his way to the hotel before making the comments about the EU referendum result.
Donald Trump is in the UK Credit: AP
He said: “I think it’s a great thing that happened, an amazing vote, very historic. We’re very happy. Asked why people voted for Brexit, he said: “People are angry. All over the world they’re angry.”
Asked if he took heart from the result for his own campaign, Mr Trump said: “We’re doing very well in the United States and essentially the same thing is happening in the United States.
“They are angry over borders, they are angry over people coming into the country and taking over and nobody even noticing. They are angry about many, many things.”
Asked to specify where people were angry, he said: “The UK, the US, many other places. It will not be the last.”
The billionaire mogul predicted the divisions caused by the referendum would “heal” and said it would bode well for his campaign.
“You know I said this would happen. I think it is a great thing. We will see but I think it will be a great thing. Basically, they took their country back,” he said.
Source: The Telegraph UK