24 Jun 2016

Leave is projected to win. The voters have decided

Leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), Nigel Farage (C) reacts outside the Leave.EU referendum party at Millbank Tower in central London on June 24, 2016, as results indicate that it looks likely the UK will leave the European Union (EU). Bookmakers dramatically reversed the odds on Britain leaving the European Union on Friday as early results from a historic referendum pointed to strong support for a Brexit. / AFP / GEOFF CADDICK (Photo credit should read GEOFF CADDICK/AFP/Getty Images)It is a massive blow to the political establishment, its biggest reverse in living memory. Immigration was the spur for many voters but this decision has consequences way beyond that issue.

David Cameron will speak earlier than some had expected and the Bank of England Governor might well follow with an announcement of his own.

The Pound is at its lowest since 1985.

There are no fixed plans for what comes next.

There is a strong expectation that David Cameron will feel he has to announce his intention to go but may not go immediately. There had been talk in No. 10 in recent weeks of him staying on in a chairman role delegating the negotiations that now follow for Brexit but many have mocked that as untenable.

He will have to consult his Leave-supporting Cabinet colleagues about what the government should do next and they have a much bigger voice than he dreamt possible.

Britain now has to work out what relationship it wants to have with the EU. It will be doing that at a time when the EU is in turmoil and Britain’s economic outlook is very volatile.

Mr Cameron’s team let it be known during this campaign that they would move Article 50 initiating Britain’s departure from Europe within days. If he tries to do that, some Brexit Cabinet ministers have indicated that they would threaten to resign.

In reality, senior EU sources say there is an understanding that the UK needs to work out what it is that it wants to become. It needs to consult Parliament and ponder what sort of relationship it will ask the EU for. That could mean Berlin, Paris and Brussels (whatever they say later today) accepting that Article 50 will not be moved until the Autumn.

European capitals had, like London, had their panics but more recently thought Remain had this referendum back under control. They were wrong.

The Leave camp had long thought that this was their best possible moment for winning this campaign: Europe wasn’t the shiny car it looked like in the mid 70s from a battered UK, it was now looking like more of a ropey old vehicle with a dodgy exhaust. And at the centre of this battle was immigration.

David Cameron thought calling this referendum relatively early after his renegotiation would stop the issue lowering over his government. The result now hovers over him like a guillotine. A drawn out contest in Scotland over independence allowed the importance of the issue to penetrate peoples minds. Lynton Crosby was amongst those telling David Cameron that a quicky vote on the EU risked being decided on issues not of his choosing. And so it came to pass.

Immigration would’ve been at the centre of a referendum fight in quite a few EU countries if there had been in/out votes there. And several EU diplomats I spoke to yesterday said they thought an in/out in Netherlands, France, Italy to name only 3 EU countries would probably vote “out” right now.

But it is Britain that has done it.

It threatens the whole EU project and it starts a new chapter in our nation’s life.

Whoever runs the country in the future will have the challenge of trying to meet voters’ appetite for a massive clampdown on immigration in the middle of a political storm and maybe an economic one too of a magnitude rarely seen.

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