Prime Minister David Cameron, who led the failed campaign to keep the United Kingdom in the European Union, has announced that he will resign by October. His successor will have the responsibility of deciding when to authorize Article 50, initiating Britain’s departure from the EU.
“I will do everything I can as prime minister to steady the ship over the coming weeks and months,” Cameron said at a press conference outside 10 Downing Street, “but I do not think it would be right for me to try to be the captain that steers the country to its next destination.”
“I was absolutely clear about my belief that Britain is stronger, safer and better off inside the EU. I made clear the referendum was about this, and this alone, not the future of any single politician, including myself,” Cameron said. “But the British people made a different decision to take a different path. As such I think the country requires fresh leadership to take it in this direction.”
Yet he had underestimated the backing Vote Leave would receive on his own backbenches; and reckoned without the charismatic and popular former mayor of London, Boris Johnson, becoming its figurehead.
Johnson, whose support among the Tory membership shot up after he declared himself for out, is now widely seen as the most likely successor to the prime minister.
The former mayor of London insisted on Friday there was “no need for haste”, in negotiating Britain’s exit. Speaking at Vote Leave’s headquarters, Johnson struck a statesmanlike tone, paying tribute to Cameron’s leadership. “This does not mean that the UK will be in any way less united; nor indeed does it mean that it will be any less European,” he said.
In fact, it may very well mean exactly that: Both Scotland and Northern Ireland voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU; Scotland will likely hold another independence vote very soon, and Irish nationalists like Sinn Fein have already called for a border poll—on whether Northern Ireland ought to be re-united with the rest of the island.
English voters have “dragged Northern Ireland out of the EU,” Declan Kearney, Sinn Fein’s national chairman, said in a statement. “English votes have overturned the democratic will of Northern Ireland. This was a cross community vote in favour of remaining in the EU. This British Government has forfeited any mandate to represent the economic or political interests of people in Northern Ireland.”
Meanwhile, the Associated Press reports, Donald Trump, during his business trip to Scotland, lauded the voters’ decision. The British “took back their country. It’s a great thing,” he said. “People are angry all over the world.”