Brexit Referendum

Brexit Referendum: U.K. Votes to Leave European Union in Historic Move

U.K. voters have backed quitting the European Union in a historic referendum.

The result triggered the resignation of Prime Minister David Cameron and put the EU into uncharted territory with far-reaching implications. It also sent the value of the British pound into free fall, triggering shockwaves across global financial markets Friday.


Friday's Developments Following U.K. 'Brexit' Vote

These are Friday's main developments after the United Kingdom’s historic referendum to quit the European Union:

  • U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron, who actively campaigned for the "Remain" vote, announced he will resign.
  • Global markets lost $2.08 trillion as anxious investors dumped holdings, according to S&P Dow Jones Indices.
  • President Obama sought to reassure British citizens that the U.S. would not abandon the nations' strong and historic partnership, but a spokesman also reaffirmed Obama's previous statement that leaving the EU would place Britain at the "back of the queue" when it comes to trade deals with the U.S.
  • Moody's Investors Service downgraded the U.K.'s sovereign debt rating from stable to negative.
  • More than 400,000 Britons have signed a petition forcing Parliament to at least debate holding a re-do vote on the referendum to leave the EU.
Shanshan Dong

Petition Forces Parliament to Debate a New 'Brexit' Referendum

As U.K. voters contemplate the aftermath of the vote to leave the European Union, some citizens have already started a petition calling for a re-do.

The petition to the British government, created by William Oliver Healey, asks for lawmakers to enact a rule that if the total voter turnout was less than 75%, and the final winning result was less than 60%, that U.K. citizens should be allowed to vote again in another referendum. The turnout for the EU referendum was 72%, and the Leave campaign won by 52%, according to the U.K. Electoral Commission.

As of midnight Saturday in London (7:00 p.m. ET), the petition on the UK Parliament website had reached 400,000 signatures. The website crashed for parts of the day Friday.

Brexit petition for another referendum UK Government

A petition on the official U.K. Parliament website that reaches over 100,000 signatures must be considered for debate in Parliament. However, it is unclear when the debate would happen, or what impact it would have.

A petition last year calling for Donald Trump to be banned from the U.K. after his incendiary comments about Muslims was debated more than five weeks after it passed the 100,000-signature threshold. While many MPs took the opportunity to slam Trump for his comments, the legislative declined to ban him from entering the country.

Meanwhile, as Scotland’s leaders contemplate a new referendum to break free of the U.K., some Londoners are considering the same. A petition calling for London mayor Sadiq Khan to declare independence for London and apply to join the EU has already attracted nearly 100,000 signatures. However, as this is not a petition on the U.K. government site, it would not require Parliament to consider the issue for a debate, should it pass 100,000 signatures.

Why 'Brexit' Is a Win for Russia

Shockwaves as Britain Votes to Leave EU 6:41

Former U.S. ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul said that losing the U.K.'s voice in the European Union will affect the U.S. because "one of our closest allies is no longer going to be there for us." And that, he said, means Russia benefits from the split.

"For years, Putin has wanted to see a non-unity, disunity within the European Union. He wants to deal with each individual country, not collectively, and he has for many years said this, I've heard him say this," McFaul said. "So for their foreign policy objectives, this most certainly is a win."

McFaul added that the schism "weakens our ability to deal with Russia."

Ben Rappaport

German Foreign Office Opts for Round at Pub Following Brexit

It looks like the German Foreign Office will be taking a much needed break after a chaotic day in international diplomacy. With the United Kingdom voting to leave the European Union in a historic referendum, pressure is rising on the remaining members to "work for a better Europe."

The German diplomats opted to blow off steam in the most European way possible.

The French foreign diplomats wanted in, too.

Jon Schuppe

French Newspaper Needles Britain

The anti-establishment French newspaper Liberation is poking fun of Britain in the cover of its Saturday editions.

The tabloid's front page features a photo of London Mayor Boris Johnson — a Brexit supporter — dangling from a zip line wire holding a pair of Union Jacks in a stunt gone wrong during the 2012 Olympics.

"Good Luck," the headline offers.

Elizabeth Chuck

Obama: 'EU Will Remain One of Our Indispensable Partners'

Obama on Brexit: Decision Will Not Change 'Special Relationship' With UK 1:31

The Brexit vote won't change America's relationship with the United Kingdom, President Obama said Friday, and it won't alter international security alliances.

"Yesterday's vote speaks to the ongoing changes and challenges that are raised by globalization, but while the UK's relationship with the EU will change, one thing that will not change is the special relationship that exists between our two nations," he said during a speech at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California. "That will endure."

The stunning referendum outcome, plus Prime Minister David Cameron's subsequent announcement that he will resign, sent markets worldwide into a tailspin Friday.

Obama said he spoke with Cameron earlier Friday and "we agreed that our economic and financial teams will remain in close contact as we stay focused on ensuring economic growth and financial stability."

The president said he also spoke with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The EU will continue to be a key partner to the U.S., along with NATO, he assured the audience.

"The EU will remain one of our indispensable partners. Our NATO alliance will remain a cornerstone of global security. And in a few weeks we'll be meeting in Warsaw for the NATO summit," he said.

"Our shared values, including our commitment to democracy and pluralism and opportunity for all people in a globalized world, that will continue to unite all of us."

Meanwhile, in Ireland Friday, Vice President Biden said that as "long-standing friends of the U.K," the U.S. respects the decision — but, he admitted, "This is not how we'd have preferred it to be."

Erik Ortiz

What Is the EU? — and Other Most-Googled Questions

Britain's inquiring minds had a burning question they needed answered in the hours after their country voted to exit the European Union: What is the European Union?

That was one of the top referendum-related searches on the internet, according to Google Trends, which analyzed such data following Thursday's historic vote and the announcement that the Brexit movement had won.

But while a record-setting 46.5 million people in the U.K. registered to cast their ballots, it seems people were still pondering the basics about the divisive issue — even after the election was over.

The top-googled question from inside the U.K. about the EU was "What does it mean to leave the EU?" according to Google Trends.

The U.K. referendum was also the most-searched political issue within the U.S. on Friday.

And for those googling Prime Minister David Cameron, who announced Friday that he will step down, people in Britain had several questions, mainly: Who will replace him?

Elizabeth Chuck

Viral Reader Comment Sums Up Disappointed Brits' Feelings

An articulate reader comment lamenting the outcome of the Brexit referendum has been retweeted tens of thousands of times by pro-Remain supporters, who say it sums up their heartache.

The comment left by 25-year-old university research associate and journalist Nicholas Barrett on the Financial Times website outlines "three tragedies":

"Firstly, it was the working classes who voted for us to leave because they were economically disregarded and it is they who will suffer the most in the short term from the dearth of jobs and investment," he wrote. "Secondly, the younger generation has lost the right to live and work in 27 other countries."

"Thirdly and perhaps most significantly, we now live in a post-factual democracy," he continued. "Can anybody tell me the last time a prevailing culture of anti-intellectualism has lead to anything other than bigotry?"

Read the full story here.

Paul Ryan: Brexit Won't Ruin U.S.-U.K. Ties

Paul Ryan on Brexit: Relationship With Britain Will Continue No Matter What 0:42
Elizabeth Chuck

'Frexit'? 'Beljump'? What Might Come After 'Brexit'

The dust hasn't yet settled from the Brexit vote — but it's never too early to start thinking about what we might dub other EU countries' potential departures.

To help, business news site Quartz came up with terms for every single EU country's possible exit.

Included on the list: "Outstria" for Austria, "Beljump" or "Bailgium" for Belgium, "Czech-out" for the Czech Republic, and "Copenhatin'" for Denmark.

See the full tongue-and-cheek list here.

Elizabeth Chuck

Lindsay Lohan, Politico? Star Sent Out Series of Brexit Tweets

Lindsay Lohan: "Mean Girls" star, former teen idol ... political commentator?

As Brits went to the polls on Thursday for a historic referendum on whether to exit the European Union, a series of impassioned tweets calling for Britain to remain in the bloc appeared in an unlikely place: the American actress' Twitter account.

"good luck with the pound.. will take you about 15 years to get it back up #REMAIN instead," one of them said.

Read the full story here.

Hillary Clinton: We Can't 'Tear Each Other Down'

Hillary Clinton weighed in, too:

We respect the choice the people of the United Kingdom have made. Our first task has to be to make sure that the economic uncertainty created by these events does not hurt working families here in America. We also have to make clear America's steadfast commitment to the special relationship with Britain and the transatlantic alliance with Europe. This time of uncertainty only underscores the need for calm, steady, experienced leadership in the White House to protect Americans' pocketbooks and livelihoods, to support our friends and allies, to stand up to our adversaries, and to defend our interests. It also underscores the need for us to pull together to solve our challenges as a country, not tear each other down.

President Obama: The ‘Special Relationship’ Will Endure

President Barack Obama reacted to the news Friday morning:

The people of the United Kingdom have spoken, and we respect their decision. The special relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom is enduring, and the United Kingdom’s membership in NATO remains a vital cornerstone of U.S. foreign, security, and economic policy. So too is our relationship with the European Union, which has done so much to promote stability, stimulate economic growth, and foster the spread of democratic values and ideals across the continent and beyond. The United Kingdom and the European Union will remain indispensable partners of the United States even as they begin negotiating their ongoing relationship to ensure continued stability, security, and prosperity for Europe, Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and the world.

Elizabeth Chuck

'We're Out!' How U.K. Tabloids Are Covering Brexit

Tabloids across the United Kingdom are covering the historic news in typically splashy style.

From British rag The Sun's "See EU later!" pun to the Scotland's Daily Record's somber warning to "Be afraid, be very afraid," here's a look at U.K. tabloids' front pages:

And it wasn't just U.K. tabloids who made the Brexit news their top story. Despite a busy day of Supreme Court decisions, a dramatic House of Representatives sit-in, and an acquittal in the Freddie Gray case, The New York Times' top headline for its Friday edition was "British Stun World With Vote to Leave E.U."

Here's a snapshot looking back at how U.K. newspapers covered the eve of the referendum:

Osborne: G-7 Banks Have Taken Steps to Ensure Liquidity

Britain's finance minister George Osborne said central banks from the G-7 have taken measures to ensure adequate liquidity in financial markets following the U.K.'s shocking decision to quit the EU.

Here's the Soundtrack You Need to Get Through #Brexit Breakup

Every great break-up needs a soundtrack — and Britain's seismic uncoupling from the European Union is no different.

NBC News asked for recommendations for the ultimate "Brexit Playlist."

Check out the list and play 'em as loud as you want.

Paul Cook, Steve Jones and Sid Vicious and Johnny Rotten (John Lydon) performing as the Sex Pistols. Redferns

Twitter Traffic Spikes Around EU Referendum

Twitter traffic in the U.K. has spiked around the EU referendum.

There were over 6.4 million tweets about the vote between the time polls opened Thursday and 10 a.m. local time (5 a.m. ET) Friday when the U.K. prime minister resigned, according to Twitter.

It said Twitter in the U.K. was double its normal levels during the announcement in which U.K. Premier David Cameron said he was stepping down — with 13,000 tweets per minute.

As of 1 p.m. local time (8 a.m. ET), the hashtag "Brexit" was still trending worldwide.

Boris Johnson: Brexit Votes U.K. No Less United

Boris Johnson: 'Brexit' Vote Makes UK No Less United 0:54

Pope Francis Weighs In on 'Brexit'

The pope has spoken.

Pope Francis heard about the results of Britain's referendum on EU membership while on the plane to Armenia and said the outcome must be respected.

"It is the will expressed by the people," he told reporters on the papal plane. "This calls for great responsibility on the part of all of us to guarantee the good of the people of the United Kingdom as well as the good and co-existence of all the European continent."

"This is what I expect," he added.

Pope Francis boarded the plane to Armenia on Friday. ANDREAS SOLARO / AFP - Getty Images

EU Leaders Urge Britain to Quickly Formalize Exit

The leaders of the EU institutions urged Britain to act quickly to formalize its exit to avoid prolonging any uncertainty.

The leaders said they "regret" but "respect" the results of Britain's referendum.

"This is an unprecedented situation but we are united in our response," the statement said. "We will stand strong and uphold the EU's core values of promoting peace and the well-being of its peoples."

They said Britain should act without delay to formalize the process, "however painful" that may be.

"Any delay would unnecessarily prolong uncertainty," they said in a joint statement.