Hours after the polls closed to determine one of the most dynamic decisions in British history, the country has voted to leave the European Union.
The call was made after 309 of the UK’s 382 cities and towns reported their results, with 52% of the population (13.1 million individual ballots) voting to exit the politico-economic European coalition, and 48% (12.2 million individual ballots) voting to remain. The official count was called at roughly 4:45 a.m. BST.
“Dare to dream that the dawn is breaking on an independent United Kingdom,” said British politician Nigel Farage, one of the outspoken proponents and (very much unofficial) leaders of the Vote Leave campaign. Whether intentional or not, his comment served as a throwback to the axiom “the sun never sets on the British Empire,” a reference to the imperialist “glory days” of the 19th century, when Britain controlled nearly one-fourth of the world’s population.
Earlier that morning, Farage called the now-certified results “a victory for real people, a victory for ordinary people, a victory for decent people.”
As The New York Times noted, the break—the first of its kind in the history of the EU—could spell disaster for the 28-country federation, “raising questions about the direction, cohesion and future of a bloc built on liberal values and shared sovereignty”—one that serves as a metaphorical stand-in for a new, post-war Europe.
“The main impact will be massive disorder in the EU system for the next two years,” Thierry de Montbrial, the French Institute of International Relations’ founder, told NYT. “There will be huge political transition costs, on how to solve the British exit, and the risk of a domino effect or bank run from other countries that think of leaving.”
While British Prime Minister David Cameron vowed to expedite the divorce process from the EU if the country voted in favor of leaving, the actual logistics of doing so might prove a bit more complicated, and may take years to fully complete.
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