United Kingdom votes to leave EU in historic referendum

By Euan McKirdy and Bryony Jones
LONDON (CNN) -- The United Kingdom has voted to leave the European Union in a historic referendum, with 51.89% of the population voting to leave and 48.11% voting for remain.

Almost 46.5 million people were registered to vote in Thursday's referendum.

Pro-independence party UKIP leader and Leave campaigner Nigel Farage told a group of journalists at Westminster following the Leave side's victory that the EU is "dying."

Calling for a 'Brexit government,' he added that "we've given ourselves the chance to rejoin the world ... June 23rd needs to become a national bank holiday and we will call it Independence Day."

He called on Prime Minister David Cameron to resign as a result of the referendum.

"The dawn is coming up on an independent United Kingdom, something that you did your absolute best -- you used all of your powers -- to prevent," he said.

"You did it using every organ of state available to you. You've lost the trust of the British people. Go, go now."

The result reflects a deeply divided union.

The town of Boston in Lincolnshire, England, had the biggest margin of victory for leave voters -- 76% to 24%.

The tiny British overseas territory of Gibraltar has the biggest margin of victory for Remain. About 96% of ballots there were for remain.

In one of the most divisive campaigns in recent memory, polls had consistently shown voters split down the middle, with the outcome too close to call, and wavering voters likely to determine the result.

The UK has been a member of the European Union -- and its precursors -- since 1973.

Mixed reaction

The results have prompted mixed reaction from politicians.

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel called the UK referendum result a "slap" to the European project during a news conference in Brussels. He urged the EU to use the "difficult momentum for the EU" as an opportunity to demonstrate the value of the European project to its citizens.

Germany Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier tweeted: "The early morning news from #GreatBritain are truly sobering. It looks like a sad day for #Europe+the #UnitedKingdom."

The far-right Dutch politician Geert Wilders congratulated the UK on its decision, and called for a Dutch referendum on EU membership.

"We want be in charge of our own country, our own money, our own borders, and our own immigration policy," he was quoted as saying in a statement on his website.

"If I become prime minister, there will be a referendum in the Netherlands on leaving the European Union as well. Let the Dutch people decide."

French Northern Irish party Sinn Fein, which has long advocated for independence from the UK, said that the vote "forfeited any mandate to represent the interests of people here in the north of Ireland," chairman Declan Kearney said in a statement.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull posted a statement on his official Facebook page.

"We respect the wishes of the British people, expressed through today's referendum, to exit the European Union," he said, while acknowledging the market turmoil the decision had wrought.

"This is a momentous and historic decision."

U.S. President Barack Obama "has been briefed" on the results and expects to speak to Cameron later in the day.

Markets start freaking out

The shock development will have profound implications for markets and economies around the world.

The pound has plunged more than 12% to below $1.34, its lowest level since 1985. Japan's Nikkei tanked 6.7%, and Hong Kong's main index dropped 3.7%. Stock futures indicate that markets in London and New York will also tank when they open for trading. Dow futures are down more than 650 points.

The London Stock Exchange (LSE) tells CNN that UK stock markets will open as normal at 3a ET. There had been reports the LSE might delay the start of trading.

The Bank of England sent out a statement stating that it is "monitoring developments closely" and that it "has undertaken extensive contingency planning and is working closely with HM Treasury, other domestic authorities and overseas central banks.

"The Bank of England will take all necessary steps to meet its responsibilities for monetary and financial stability."

Results have sparked a global markets sell-off. London stock futures are trading 7% lower and stock futures in the U.S. are down 2%, CNNMoney reports.

Before the polls closed, markets had been expecting the UK would stay in the EU. But that expectation changed rapidly as results started coming in.

The pound is dropping sharply against all major currencies, and is currently trading at 1.38 against the dollar. Oil is down 4%.

Gold -- one asset investors turn to in the times of uncertainty --- is up 2%.

The shockwaves are being felt around the world.

Japanese Finance Minister Taro Aso told reporters Japan is keeping a close eye on financial markets following the UK's EU referendum and is ready to take measures if necessary, if markets continue to fall.

The South Korean government will hold an emergency meeting on the UK's EU referendum result at 2 p.m. local time (1 a.m. ET), according to a South Korean Finance Ministry official.

'Serious consequences'

While Turnout in Scotland is 67% and voted overwhelmingly to stay in Europe. Now that the UK as a whole has determine to leave, many north of the border feel that this would be a catalyst for another Scottish referendum, allowing the country to secede from the UK.

"Scotland has delivered a strong, unequivocal vote to remain in the EU, and I welcome that endorsement of our European status," Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said in a statement.

"And while the overall result remains to be declared, the vote here makes clear that the people of Scotland see their future as part of the European Union."

SNP member for Edinburgh Joanna Cherry told CNN that the result had been "shocking," especially as Scotland had been told during their 2014 referendum the only way to guarantee their European Union membership was to stay part of the United Kingdom.

"It was a big issue... if it now turns out that promise has been broken, then of course there is the material, significant change in circumstances which we said in our manifesto would justify the Scottish parliament in calling another referendum."

The SNP voices added to Sinn Fein's call for the UK's constituent parts to have their say on remaining in the UK.

"If this result holds, it's the end of Britain, just simple as that... Scotland is voting overwhelmingly to stay," historian Simon Schama told CNN before the vote.

"If Scotland cannot be coerced into leaving the EU against its will, you cannot, in all decency, deny them a second referendum. If all the leavers are about self-government, taking back control, why shouldn't the Scots take back control?

"Bye-bye Great Britain, bye-bye United Kingdom. That will absolutely happen."

CNN's Bryony Jones, Phil Black, Nic Robertson, Richard Allen Greene, Simon Cullen, Sebastian Shukla, Tim Lister, Vasco Cotovio, Kevin Liptak and Anais Furtade contributed to this report.
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