A major­i­ty of vot­ers in the Unit­ed King­dom of Great Britain have decid­ed to break up with the Euro­pean Union, British mass media out­lets are pro­ject­ing, stun­ning finan­cial mar­kets and pun­dits who had pre­dict­ed a vic­to­ry for the Remain cam­paign when all was said and done. At around mid­night East­ern time and 9 PM Pacif­ic, the Leave side had a lead of over 700,000 votes, and was win­ning hand­i­ly in Eng­land and Wales, but los­ing Scot­land, North­ern Ire­land, and Gibraltar.

U.K. Prime Min­is­ter David Cameron has yet to issue any state­ment or react to the ref­er­en­dum. Sev­er­al author­i­ties have yet to release their counts, though the num­ber of areas that have yet to report in is dwin­dling, which is why the BBC and oth­er media out­lets have start­ed mak­ing projections.

Britain’s cur­ren­cy, the pound ster­ling, has already fall­en sharply, drop­ping to lev­els not seen since 1985, and major loss­es are expect­ed when the Lon­don stock mar­ket opens for busi­ness in a few hours. Asian mar­kets are already in bad shape.

The notion that the Unit­ed King­dom will soon become “inde­pen­dent” may be a short-lived fan­ta­sy. There may not be a Unit­ed King­dom at all for very much longer. What tonight’s vote remind­ed us is that the UK is a deeply divid­ed coun­try, despite its name. Eng­land and Wales have endorsed a breakup with the Euro­pean Union, but Scot­land and North­ern Ire­land vot­ed deci­sive­ly to Remain.

Britain’s exist from the Euro­pean Union is almost sure to revi­tal­ize the effort in Scot­land to leave the Unit­ed King­dom. Asked to react to the results of the vote, Scot­land’s First Min­is­ter Nico­la Stur­geon did not imme­di­ate­ly call for anoth­er Scot­tish inde­pen­dence ref­er­en­dum, but did point out that a major­i­ty of Scots were in favor of stick­ing with the EU, in con­trast to the Eng­lish:

Scot­land has deliv­ered a strong, unequiv­o­cal vote to remain in the EU, and I wel­come that endorse­ment of our Euro­pean sta­tus. And while the over­all result remains to be declared, the vote here makes clear that the peo­ple of Scot­land see their future as part of the Euro­pean Union.

Scot­land has con­tributed sig­nif­i­cant­ly to the remain vote across the UK. That reflects the pos­i­tive cam­paign the SNP fought, which high­light­ed the gains and ben­e­fits of our EU mem­ber­ship, and peo­ple across Scot­land have respond­ed to that pos­i­tive mes­sage. We await the final UK-wide result, but Scot­land has spo­ken – and spo­ken decisively.

Har­ry Pot­ter author J.K. Rowl­ing cer­tain­ly shares this view. She tweet­ed, “Scot­land will seek inde­pen­dence now. [David] Cameron’s lega­cy will be break­ing up two unions. Nei­ther need­ed to happen.”

Mean­while, in North­ern Ire­land, the pro-Irish reuni­fi­ca­tion polit­i­cal par­ty Sinn Fein declared: “The British gov­ern­ment has for­feit­ed any man­date to rep­re­sent eco­nom­ic or polit­i­cal inter­ests of peo­ple in North­ern Ireland.”

Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma is cur­rent­ly in Cal­i­for­nia and sched­uled to fly to Seat­tle tomor­row for fundrais­ing events. The White House has not released a state­ment on the vote, owing to the late­ness of the hour, the fact that not all the votes have been count­ed yet, and the like­li­hood that Oba­ma has not yet called Cameron to dis­cuss the fall­out with him. But there will prob­a­bly be a state­ment com­ing tomorrow.

“The Pres­i­dent has been briefed on the incom­ing returns in the UK ref­er­en­dum, and he will con­tin­ue to be updat­ed by his team as the sit­u­a­tion war­rants,” said a spokesman for the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion. “We expect the Pres­i­dent will have an oppor­tu­ni­ty to speak to Prime Min­is­ter Cameron over the course of the next day, and we will release fur­ther com­ment as soon as appropriate.”

There is expect­ed to be imme­di­ate fall­out from the “Brex­it” in the Unit­ed States, as the Wall Street Jour­nal’s Ian Tal­ley explains:

Britain’s exit is expect­ed to jolt the U.S. econ­o­my, like­ly rat­tling restive equi­ty mar­kets and dri­ving up the val­ue of the dol­lar. It could also weak­en U.S. diplo­mat­ic lever­age in Europe and upend the cor­po­rate strate­gies of U.S. com­pa­nies based in London.

Top finance offi­cials say the dam­age from the so-called Brex­it alone isn’t like­ly to be enough to nudge the U.S. into a con­trac­tion. But as skit­tish investors pull out of U.K. and Euro­pean mar­kets and pour into the safe­ty of U.S. assets, a falling pound and euro could cause the dol­lar to surge, fur­ther sup­press­ing demand for Amer­i­can exports.

Ire­land will also be sig­nif­i­cant­ly affected.

‘The Gov­ern­ment notes the out­come of the UK EU ref­er­en­dum this morn­ing,” the Irish gov­ern­ment said in a state­ment. “This result clear­ly has very sig­nif­i­cant impli­ca­tions for Ire­land, as well as for Britain and for the Euro­pean Union. The Gov­ern­ment will meet lat­er this morn­ing to reflect on the result. Fol­low­ing that meet­ing, the Taoiseach will make a pub­lic statement.”

UPDATE, BREAKING NEWS, 12:28 AM: Prime Min­is­ter David Cameron has deliv­ered a state­ment out­side of Num­ber 10 Down­ing Street accept­ing the results of the ref­er­en­dum and announc­ing that he will resign as Prime Min­is­ter in Octo­ber. Thus trig­gers a lead­er­ship con­test in the gov­ern­ing Tory Par­ty. It will like­ly also lead to new elec­tions in the U.K. with­in the next year.

Said Cameron:

I was absolute­ly clear [in the ref­er­en­dum] about my belief that Britain is stronger, safer and bet­ter off inside the Euro­pean Union. And I made clear 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.

I will do ever­thing 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.

This is not a deci­sion I have tak­en light­ly. But I do believe it’s 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.

This post will be updat­ed with fresh devel­op­ments.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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