David Cameron has announced his resignation as Prime Minister after the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union (EU) after an historic – and often bitter – referendum campaign.
Cameron announced his intention to resign in October as it emerged that the leave campaign won by 52 percent to 48 percent.
The impact on the financial markets was immediate, with the pound sterling currency dropping to its lowest level against the U.S. dollar since 1985 as early poll results came in.
Nigel Farage, the leader of the UK Independence Party and a vociferous opponent of the U.K.'s membership of the EU, hailed the victory, saying it had been achieved “without a bullet being fired” and calling for 23 June to become the country's day of independence.
Much had been made throughout the campaign of the importance of EU membership on areas such as the automotive industry, but an early indicator of the way things were likely to pan out was the vote in Sunderland, where Japanese carmaker Nissan has a huge operation, yet where the vote to leave was 61 percent, with remain on 39 percent.
Scotland voted to remain, as did London and Northern Ireland, but Wales and most of the rest of England voted for Brexit.
Senior EU and industry figures have already called on the UK government to commence exit negotiations immediately, while leading Conservatives on the 'Leave' side have called for unity following the historic result.
The Bank of England has said it would step in to steady the markets in the wake of the vote.
In a statement today Mark Carney, the Bank's governor, said the institution would “not hesitate to take additional measures as required as those markets adjust and the UK economy moves forward.”
“A few months ago, the Bank judged that the risks around the referendum were the most significant, near-term domestic risks to financial stability.
“The Bank will continue to consult and cooperate with all relevant domestic and international authorities to ensure that the UK financial system can absorb any stresses and can concentrate on serving the real economy.”
Business organizations responded to the result, calling for reassurance and calm in the wake of the vote.
Terry Scuoler, head of manufacturers' organization the EEF, said: "Ministers must think carefully about our negotiating position while setting out a clear road map for establishing a new deal with the EU which remains our biggest market and trading partner.
“We need a clear vision for a new relationship between the UK and the EU, but we must also avoid throwing the baby out with the bath water.
"In the complex task of unpicking the UK from EU regulation and legislation, the government must tread carefully, keeping if we can a trading relationship with the single market, avoiding dramatic overnight changes and not becoming bogged down to the detriment of making long-awaited and much-needed decisions on projects vital to our future economic prosperity.
"We must also ensure that the skilled workers we need are still encouraged and enabled to live and work in the UK.”
Carolyn Fairbairn, director-general of the CBI, which wanted a 'remain' vote, said: “The British people's vote to leave the EU is a momentous turning point in our history. The country has spoken and it's for us all to listen.
“Many businesses will be concerned and need time to assess the implications. But they are used to dealing with challenge and change and we should be confident they will adapt.
“The urgent priority now is to reassure the markets. We need strong and calm leadership from the government, working with the Bank of England, to shore up confidence and stability in the economy."
Simon Walker, director general of the Institute of Directors, said: “While this may not have been the result that the majority of our members wanted, Britain has voted to leave the EU, and it is now imperative that our political leaders manage the transition as smoothly as possible.
"The weeks and months ahead are going to be a nervy time for business leaders, so they have to know that the government is focussed on maintaining stability while a new relationship with the EU is established."
Mike Hawes, chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, said, “The British public has chosen a new future out of Europe. Government must now maintain economic stability and secure a deal with the EU which safeguards UK automotive interests.