BREXIT The UK has voted to leave the European Union, confounding the polls, the "experts" and the British establishment in the biggest turnout for a vote here in 24 years. Prime Minister David Cameron announced his resignation at 8:30am this morning.
The count stands at 51.9 per cent Leave, and 48.1 per cent remain – and more than a million votes. It’s a catastrophe for the European Union, which over the past decade has subsumed more powers.
The insurgency Leave campaign had poor ground organisation, while the status quo had the backing of big business, the City, institutions, all the major political parties, comedians, and the rest of the political class. Scotland, Northern Ireland and inner city London voted strongly to remain in the EU, but the emphatic pile-up of votes across the heartlands of England and Wales, including major cities such as Birmingham, Newcastle and Sheffield gave Leave a clear victory. Demographically the result pitted the working class and the provincial middle class against London’s bien pensant elites.
Voters defied warnings that a Leave vote would "destroy Western political civilisation", and threats from US President Barack Obama, George Osborne and the IMF.
However, Leave’s motley coalition is poorly prepared to plan an exit: many privately didn’t expect it to happen. The most comprehensive plan, the Flexcit document, was marginalised by mainstream anti-EU campaigners. It's now being perused by civil servants who had no Plan B. You can find that here (PDF). Economist Roger Bootle’s prize winning Leaving The Euro PDF is also useful.
For now, nothing changes, but the option of invoking Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty can come into play. This is a formal notice to withdraw, and gives a member state two years to negotiate an exit, but there’s no obligation to invoke it right away. Think-tank Open Europe has an explainer here
With stagnation and mass youth unemployment across mainland Europe, the story is unlikely to end with Brexit. France, Spain and Greece are both more Eurosceptical than the UK, and only 51 per cent of Europeans in 10 states had a favourable view of the EU.
“It’s an insurgency that’s had to fight two establishments: Conservatives and Labour,” author of The New Class Conflict Joel Kotkin told us yesterday in an interview. Kotkin was the first critic of the way the interests of urban progressives diverge from those of the working class, an alliance in which Silicon Valley features prominently.
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