An emotional David Cameron has announced his resignation as Prime Minister after the historic EU referendum delivered clear backing for Brexit.
The Prime Minister said he accepted the verdict of the ‘great democratic exercise’ which saw the Leave campaign triumph after stacking up votes across England and Wales – despite massive support for Remain in Scotland and major cities including London.
The Pound nose-dived to its lowest level against the US dollar for 31 years as traders took fright at the news, and the stock market slumped by 8 per cent within minutes of opening. SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon has already raised the prospect of a second independence referendum in Scotland.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is also coming under intense pressure over his role in the botched Remain campaign.
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.
David Cameron said he could not be the ‘captain of the ship’ while the UK negotiated its exit from the EU
David and Samantha Cameron comforted each other after he made his emotional statement outside the famous door of 10 Downing Street
‘I held nothing back. I was absolutely clear about my belief that Britain is stringer, safer and better off inside the EU,’ he said.
‘And I made the referendum was about this and this alone – not the future of any single politician including myself.
‘But the British people have made a very clear decision to take a different path and as such I think the country requires fresh leadership to take it in this direction.’
Choking back tears, Mr Cameron said he would not depart immediately and would seek to calm the markets over the coming ‘weeks and months’.
But he said a new Prime Minister should be in place for the Conservative Party conference in October.
‘I will do everything I can as Prime Minister to steady the ship over the coming weeks and months but I do not think it would be right for me to try to be the captain that steers our country to its next destination,’ he said.
‘This is not a decision I have taken lightly but I do believe it is in the national interest to have a period of stability and then the new leadership required.
‘There is no need for a precise timetable today but in my view we should aim to have a new Prime Minister in place by the start of the Conservative Party conference in October.’
He added: ‘Delivering stability will be important. And I will continue in post as Prime Minister with my cabinet for the next three months.
‘The Cabinet will meet on Monday, the Governor of the Bank of England is making a statement about the steps the Bank and the Treasury are taking to reassure financial markets.
‘We will also continue taking forward the important le3gislation we set before parliament in the Queen’s Speech – and I have spoken to Her Majesty the Queen this morning to advise her of the steps that I am taking.’
The bombshell announcement came after a night of high drama that included:
- Sunderland voted by a massive 61 per cent to 39 per cent for Brexit – far higher than expected. In Swansea, where Remain had been forecast to win by 10 percentage points, Leave ended up by 52 per cent to 48 per cent.
- Among a slew of poor results, Remain also only won by 51 per cent to 49 per cent in Newcastle, less than many had anticipated.
- The final outcome of the referendum was 51.9 per cent for Leave to 48.1 per cent, with the winning margin more than a million votes.
- The news sent the Pound plunging against the US dollar, losing around 20 cents to hit its lowest level since 1985. The stock market is also expected to open down around 8 per cent.
- The Bank of England has moved to reassure investors that it will take ‘all necessary steps’ to stabilise the economy
- The Brexit victory came despite Mr Farage admitting seconds after polls closed that Remain looked to have ‘edged’ the referendum. Boris Johnson reportedly told a passenger on the Tube that his side had lost the referendum battle.
- Final polls had also predicted a Remain victory by up to 54-46.
- More than 80 Tory Brexit backers have written to David Cameron urging him to stay on in Downing Street whatever the outcome.
The direction of the battle started to become clear with a shock result in Sunderland which saw the Out camp win by 61 per cent to 39 per cent. Analysis before the referendum had suggested Leave could be on track to win if they were more than six percentage points ahead.
A surprise victory for Brexit in Swansea, where the pro-EU side had been expecting to romp home, signposted a disastrous showing for Remain across Wales. Areas like Carmarthenshire decisively turned their back on Brussels.
Newcastle was less clear cut for the pro-EU side than they had hoped, seeing them sneak home by just 51 per cent to 49 per cent.
Remain had some bright spots, with chunky wins in London, Scotland and Oxford. Wandsworth in particular piled in with a massive 77 per cent in favour of staying.