Europe is awakening to a momentous morning. Britain has voted to leave the EU. Sixty years of European statecraft has gone into reverse. Britain’s government is in turmoil. Markets have plunged. Sterling has suffered its biggest fall in 30 years. The uncertainty over what comes next is palpable.
Britain’s vote will transform not just Britain and its place in the world, but spill over into global markets, Europe’s economy, and the balance of power on the bloc. The coming hours will be of historic importance, framing what will be a protracted and difficult divorce. The potential consequences of this vote are hard to overstate. This is the biggest challenge for the continent since the end of the Cold War.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT — BEST OF THE FT
A Brexit vote that changes everything. The referendum gamble that left Mr Cameron’s career in tatters. Our guide to the world’s most complex divorce. The fallout for Europe and the world.The bumpy road for the British economy. The bitter campaign that divided Britain. The FT live blog. What happens next. How currency markets called this wrong. Brexiters find their fizz. Europe’s populists cheer.
THE MARKET RESPONSE
Markets have not seen movements like this since the worst days of the financial crisis.
US treasury yields plunge
THE MORNING AFTER
Central banks will be preparing to flood the markets with liquidity. There will be a scramble across world capitals to offer reassurance. But in truth there are no easy answers to give. We are entering a long period of extreme turbulence in politics.
The first question is the future of David Cameron. He will make a statement in Downing Street shortly. Most ministers and Tories expect Mr Cameron to resign – Ken Clarke, the former Tory chancellor, has predicted that “he wouldn’t last 30 seconds”. We’ll soon see whether he takes that advice. He may issue a holding statement to avoid delivering another shock for markets to digest. Whatever he decides, never glad confident morning again.
More on the Tory leadership issue below. Mr Cameron’s fate – and the leadership of Britain’s government – must be settled before divorce talks can properly start. Britain needs to decide how to interpret the referendum. That may take some time.
WHAT NEXT FOR CAMERON
Few leaders can survive such a blow. Eurosceptic MPs rallied behind the prime minister – at least before the count started (that includes Boris Johnson, the former London mayor.) Read it as a loyalty pledge that helps Brexiters look less traitorous. Many expect Mr Cameron to go in any event. And note more than 40 Brexit backing MPs failed to sign. If Mr Cameron decides to fight on, his remaining time as prime minister will likely be shorter, and much more volatile.
WHAT IF CAMERON GOES?
Most Westminster observers expect Mr Cameron to step down as Conservative party leader, and stay on as caretaker prime minister while his successor is selected. He could resign both posts, but it is far from obvious who could take over.
The Tory leadership contest rules are clear: two candidates are chosen by MPs and put to a ballot of Tory party members. This usually takes a few months to allow for hustings, so a leader could perhaps be chosen by September or October. The rules give the Tory party a lot of flexibility. It can be brought forward.
Britain has fixed term parliaments, which makes it hard to go to an early election. But it is not impossible.
THE MESSAGE FROM BREXITERS
Some messages becoming clear from the Brexit camp leaders: great news, stay calm, we’re loyal to David Cameron, there is no need to trigger the article 50 divorce clause immediately, this will take time.
THE MESSAGE FROM EUROPE
Before the vote, EU leaders decided on a political message is based around the three Rs: respect for the result, regret at the decision, and resolve to show the union will survive.
Donald Tusk, the European Council president, will likely make a statement reflecting that after Mr Cameron speaks. Others will probably follow. Expect to hear from Angela Merkel and Francois Hollande soon. But be in no doubt that it will be hard to maintain a clear line today; this is too seismic a moment to choreograph. Politicians may take positions in coming hours that will be important in shaping what kind of post-Brexit settlement is possible.
The main meeting of the day in Brussels will start around 10.30, hosted by Jean-Claude Juncker, the European Commission president. It will include Mr Tusk, Dutch premier Mark Rutte and Martin Schulz, the European parliament president.
WHAT NEXT FOR THE UK
The outcome raises profound questions for the integrity of the United Kingdom itself, with Scotland and Northern Ireland both strongly backing Remain.
Nicola Sturgeon, first minister of Scotland and leader of the Scottish National Party, said that the outcome “makes clear that the people of Scotland see their future as part of the European Union.”
Irish republican party Sinn Féin said that Britain has “forfeited any mandate” to represent the interests of Northern Ireland.
QUOTES OF THE MORNING
“The dawn is breaking on an independent UK…..we’ve done it without having a fight, without a single bullet being fired.” – Nigel Farage, Ukip leader
“God help our country.” - Paddy Ashdown, former Liberal Democrat leader
“This is a fantastic opportunity.” - Andrea Leadsom, Brexit backing minister
“Cameron’s legacy will be breaking up two unions. Neither needed to happen.” - J.K. Rowling, author and Remain supporter
“If this becomes true, we are headed for immediate turmoil and long term uncertainty.”Carl Bildt, former Swedish prime minister
“Hooray for the Brits! Now it’s our turn. Time for a Dutch referendum!” Geert Wilders, leader of Holland’s populist Freedom Party.
“Damn! A bad day for Europe.” Sigmar Gabriel, Germany’s deputy chancellor.
Britain can’t replicate the “Swiss miracle” by leaving the EU (Stewart, NY Times)
Britain has finally had an open, honest conversation about sovereignty and immigration (Telegraph)
The referendum campaigns have revealed a fractured country (Perkins, Guardian)
Bitter Brexit campaign reveals a divided and angry nation (Parker, FT)
What leading Brexiters think comes next (written pre-vote) (Hannan, ConHome)
This would never have happened without Farage (Kirkup, Telegraph)
Strongest leave vote: Boston 75.6%, South Holland 73.6%, Castle Point 72.7%
Strongest remain vote: Gibraltar 95.9%, Lambeth 78.6%, Hackney 78.5%
WHAT WILL THE BOE AND ECB DO?
The BoE’s rate-setting committee is due to meet on July 14, though it may choose to meet sooner. Members will have to decide from the market signals whether any response – either cutting interest rates or buying more assets – is needed. (Cadman, FT)
If a Brexit threatens to derail the eurozone’s recovery, the ECB could expand its quantitative easing programme, under which it is now buying €80bn worth of mostly government bonds each month. It could also counter an extreme reaction in financial markets by unleashing its Outright Monetary Transactions programme, under which it can buy short-term government debt in potentially unlimited quantities.
The ECB has a euro swap line set up with major central banks around the world, including the Bank of England, which it can use to pump euros into the global financial system across borders and time zones. (Jones, FT)