It is bad news for Britain as the pound fell sharply on financial markets overnight as early results in the EU referendum suggested.
British Prime Minister, David Cameron
The pound fell sharply on financial markets overnight as early results in the EU referendum suggested the Leave campaign was performing above expectations.
According to Metro, despite pessimistic forecasts from Ukip leader Nigel Farage, who said he thought Remain had ‘nicked it’, Brexit pushed into a slender early lead on the back of wins in Sunderland, Swindon, Middlesbrough, Hartlepool and Kettering.
Pro-Leave Tories including Boris Johnson and Michael Gove signed a letter to David Cameron urging him to stay on as leader whatever the result of the referendum.
Joe Rundle, head of trading at ETX Capital, described the win for Leave as the ‘one of the biggest market shocks of all time’.
He said: ‘The pound has collapsed to its lowest level in over 30 years, suffering its biggest one-day fall in living memory. Panic may not be too strong a word – the pound could have further to go over the next couple of days as markets digest the news.
‘It’s worth noting that trading desks are not fully staffed and these are only the initial reactions. We’re waiting for the big money to crank into action over the coming days and even weeks, which will likely exert further downward pressure on sterling.’
The FTSE is forecast to open up 9% down as investors flock to safe havens such as gold.
Sterling had hit 1.50 dollars shortly after polls closed at 10pm on Thursday, but as Leave votes flooded in in increasing numbers the strength of sterling plummeted.
Influential backbencher David Davis said the Prime Minister could stay on for a ‘couple of years’ but should put someone else in charge of negotiations on a new relationship with the EU, while long-standing Eurosceptic John Redwood suggested Tories should wait to see if Mr Cameron was willing to ‘implement the public will’ after a Leave vote.
Mr Redwood said the PM should bring in talent from the Leave side to build ‘a new government to bind the country together’.
Senior Labour figures including Ed Miliband and Yvette Cooper suggested that the scale of support for Leave was fuelled by discontent with the way the country was heading on issues like wages, jobs and opportunities for the young.
‘It’s a nation divided and the PM will have a big responsibility – particularly if it’s a Remain win – to show he understands what people are saying on the Leave side of the argument,’ said former Labour leader Mr Miliband.
‘Labour faces that responsibility too. As far as Labour voters are concerned, there are two issues. There is obviously immigration, but beneath that there is a whole set of issues about people’s lives and the fact that they don’t feel politics is listening to them.’
Labour’s shadow chancellor John McDonnell said that whatever the result, Mr Cameron would be a ‘hostage’ to his pro-Brexit MPs who will make sure they seize ‘key positions’.
As polling stations closed at 10pm on Thursday, Ukip leader Nigel Farage said he thought Britain had voted to remain in the EU, but said his party would not give up the fight to take control back from Brussels.
‘Win or lose this battle, we will win this war,’ he said. ‘The Eurosceptic genie is out of the bottle and it will now not be put back.’
Other senior Leave figures declined to back Mr Farage’s assessment, which he told the Press Association was based on information from private exit polls conducted by friends in the City, as well as his personal sense of how referendum day had gone.
With no exit polls conducted by broadcasters, a reliable picture of the likely outcome was not expected to emerge until the early hours of Friday, with the final result expected at breakfast time.
The final poll of the campaign forecast a Remain victory by a margin of 52% to 48%. But the first result to be announced in the UK gave only a slender lead of 50.7% to 49.3% for Remain in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, which had been expected to give a more enthusiastic thumbs-up for EU membership.
Within moments of Sunderland opting for Leave by an emphatic 61% to 39%, the value of Sterling slumped by around 3% in a sign of market concern that Britain may about to take the dramatic step of quitting the EU after 43 years. Remain racked up a number of successes in Scotland, as expected.
Some 84 Leave-backing Conservatives signed the letter to the PM, as Tories battled to restore a unity riven by weeks of divisive ‘blue-on-blue’ fighting.
In it they wrote: ‘We believe whatever the British people decide you have both a mandate and a duty to continue leading the nation implementing our policies.’
As well as Mr Johnson and Mr Gove, the signatories included Cabinet-level Brexit backers Chris Grayling, Theresa Villiers, John Whittingdale and Priti Patel.
But former Cabinet ministers Owen Paterson, Cheryl Gillan and David Jones did not sign, along with the chair of the backbench 1922 committee Graham Brady and influential MPs including Mr Davis and Bernard Jenkin.