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Great Britain Votes to Leave EU - What Now?

In a stunning and somewhat surprising defeat, the Remain campaign has lost narrowly to the Leave campaign on Britain’s claim to the European Union. The pound has decreased dramatically, sitting at around 1.37 to the US dollar, David Cameron has resigned as Prime Minister and opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn faces a no confidence vote within his own party. The swift and rapid fallout has the potential to greatly change European and global politics, weakening the economic and political stronghold that Great Britain has held for decades.

What remains unclear is the future direction for all stakeholders, including the UK itself as well as other nations that comprise the European Union. The results of the referendum are clear but the path forward for the UK appears to be ill-defined. Here are just a few of the reactions that have come to light over the past few hours.

The EU reaction

The fallout from remaining members of the EU has been harsh. Presidents of the governing bodies – the European Commission, Council and Parliament – have all condemned the decision and called for a quick exit, stating that delay would “prolong unnecessary uncertainty.” German chancellor, Angela Merkel, said in the early hours of the morning that she feels “great regret” regarding the decision, calling for calmness among the remaining members of the Union. French president François Hollande gave a televised address from Paris Friday morning, saying that Europe must move forward to survive as an institution. For Greece, a precarious member of the EU, the vote sets a worrying precedent, highlighting the second possibility of a “Grexit” which was originally shot down by the Greeks in their own referendum a couple of years ago.

The UK Divide

Results were divided amongst the countries of Great Britain. England and Wales voted decisively for the “leave” campaign. Scotland and Northern Ireland were strongly for remaining within the European Union. Every single district in Scotland voted to stay within the EU, which is no doubt a sore point for many Scots considering their independence referendum held last year where Scotland narrowly avoided independence. Many Scottish citizens voted to remain part of Great Britain due to the benefits of EU membership which, after this referendum, have been eradicated. In Northern Ireland, Sinn Fein has called for reunification with the Republic of Ireland. Both countries have been welcomed to apply for EU membership if they secede from Britain.

What next?

The EU has urged the UK to act swiftly to ensure a rapid exit from the institution. In a statement given to press yesterday, European Parliament president Martin Schulz said "that the uncertainty of EU exit plans until Cameron’s departure in October will be too late" and “it is difficult to accept that a whole continent is taken hostage because of an internal fight in the Tory party". Nonetheless, it is clear that no one is really prepared and cannot predict what will happen next. Presumably, the government will work with the EU to ensure free trade and right to movement amongst the EU and the UK. On the other hand, it will be interesting to see if the EU will refuse to grant these rights in order to make an example of the severity of leaving for other nations in the continent. As Europe sleeps on a tumultuous day, new questions will arise. The European Union and Great Britain have entered untested waters in international politics, posing a unique and incredible dilemma – one that will take many years to fully resolve.

Zoe Meers is the Europe and Eurasia Fellow at Young Australians in International Affairs.

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Image credit: (Public Domain)

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