Prime Minister David Cameron on Friday announced that he will step down by October after the UK voted to leave the European Union.
“The British people have decided to follow another path. So they need a new prime minister,” Cameron said in a televised statement outside Downing Street after the final Brexit result was announced.
Cameron came under severe pressure to quit as the United Kingdom voted 52-48 per cent to leave the EU after 43 years in a historic referendum.
Immediately after the result, Labour Party’s Hilary Benn, the shadow foreign secretary, said it was “very hard” for Cameron to continue under such circumstances.
“If you are the Prime Minister, you’ve called this referendum, you’ve laid your reputation on the line and your arguments, I think it’s going to be very hard,” Benn said in a statement.
Cameron in his statement said he was “absolutely clear 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”.
He said he would do “everything I can as prime minister to steady the ship” in the coming 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. But I do believe it’s in the national interest to have a period of stability and then a new leadership required.”
He didn’t set out a timetable when the country will have the next prime minister.
“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.
“I love this country and I feel honoured to have served it,” he said.
The referendum turnout was 71.8 per cent — with more than 30 million people voting. This was the highest turnout at a British poll since 1992.
As a result, the pound fell to its lowest level against the dollar since 1985 as the markets reacted to the results.
After a lower-than-expected margin of victory for the remain campaign in Newcastle, where it won the backing of 54 per cent of voters, there was a jolt after midnight when leave captured Sunderland with 61.3 per cent of the vote in a city which has traditionally been a Labour stronghold.
Wales and the majority of England outside London voted in large numbers for Brexit.
London and Scotland voted strongly to stay in the EU but the remain vote has been undermined by poor results in the north of England.
Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said that the EU vote “makes clear that the people of Scotland see their future as part of the European Union” after all 32 local authority areas returned majorities for Remain.
Britain would be the first country to leave the EU since its formation — but a leave vote will not immediately mean Britain ceases to be a member of the 28-nation bloc.
That process could take a minimum of two years, with leave campaigners suggesting that the referendum campaign may not be completed until 2020 — the date of the next scheduled general election.