Britain has decided, the EU gets the cold shoulder and the United Kingdom will forge its own future outside the union. I have no legal or financial insight into what happens next or how the will of the people gets enacted. Having left the country behind I shouldn’t really have an opinion one way or another. But I am an interested party, with financial and family commitments in the UK and young children who might now be denied the opportunity to live and work in Europe had that been in their future.
With the resignation of David Cameron, who shoulders the blame or shares the credit for the decision (depending on your viewpoint), the Conservative party needs to elect a new Prime Minister and a new cabinet that will take ownership of the exit negotiations.
That in itself will be a challenge.
Primary candidate is almost certainly going to be Boris Johnson. The former London mayor seems a most inappropriate person to lead the country at any time, never mind at such a pivotal one. And what of Nigel Farage, the man whose ambitions were realised so spectacularly last night? Will he not demand a position for the only UKIP MP in the new cabinet?
Aside from the negotiations around the mechanics of separation, there are the lives and livelihoods of the near five million people who either are either British and live in the rest of the EU, or are EU citizens plying their trade in the UK. Then there are the trade figures. 50% of UK trade (in each direction) is with the EU. Renegotiating trade agreements is going to require a steady and diplomatic hand on the wheel. So not Johnson. And especially not Farage.
The geographical split in voting may prove problematic too. Scotland and Northern Ireland were firmly in favour of staying in the EU and whilst the former may choose to leverage this into a second cessation referendum, the latter raises the possibility of messy, unpleasant and troublesome Irish re-unification demands. Never mind the loss of significant EU funding that has supported the Peace Process.
The UK’s exit from the EU has no precedent. In that respect the tales of woe and joy from those on either side of the argument should be taken with a large pinch of salt. Claims made by either side can be easily countered by claims from the other. Neither side of the argument has a crystal ball. What is important now is for politicians on both sides of the argument to accept that the people have spoken and that delivering a plan for this new future is what should occupy their efforts now.
There is no doubt that this outcome has been considered and planned for by all parties, and strategies have been formulated to ensure that the next couple of years do not end up being the crashing calamity that mismanagement could cause.
So whilst money markets and stock exchanges may veer all over the place in the next few weeks and months, it is the position two, five and ten years out that should be occupying our thoughts right now. Whatever the reasons, myths or lies that drove this decision, it has been made, and the real calamity would be to fail to make the best of the position the EU and the UK now find themselves in.