London - The UK must now begin two years of exit negotiations with the European Parliament.
David Cameron has announced his resignation as Prime Minister after the UK 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 sterling dropping to its lowest level against the US dollar since 1985 as early poll results came in.
Nigel Farage, the leader of the UK Independence Party and a vociferous opponent of the UK'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 car-maker 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 the rest of England voted for Brexit.
Senior EU 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.
Business organisations responded to the result, calling for reassurance.
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 focused 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.
"This includes securing tariff-free access to European and other global markets, ensuring we can recruit talent from the EU and the rest of the world and making the UK the most competitive place in Europe for automotive investment.”