Boris Johnson has made a pitch to be Prime Minister of a new ‘great’ Britain outside the EU after a devastated David Cameron announced his resignation.
Mr Johnson started to 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.
Flanked by wife Samantha in Downing Street, Mr Cameron said he had been ‘proud’ to serve as PM for the past six years.
But he said it would not be right for him to be the ‘captain of the ship’ while the UK negotiated its exit from the EU.
After his speech, Mr Cameron travelled to Buckingham Palace to discuss the results with the Queen.
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.
- The news 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 8 per cent in morning trading.
- 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’ to stabilise the economy.
- Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon said it was now ‘highly likely’ that a second independence referendum will be held, potentially within months.
- European Council president Donald Tusk expressed sorrow at Britain’s verdict 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’.
- Conservative Party chairman Andrew Feldman joined his close friend Mr Cameron in declaring he will stand down
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.