Post Brexit: A Kingdom Divided

After Britain voted to leave the EU, people in Scotland, Northern Ireland and now even London are considering pursuing independence from the UK.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

A British flag which was washed away by heavy rains the day before lies on the street in London, Britain, June 24, 2016 after Britain voted to leave the European Union in the EU BREXIT referendum.

Britons have voted to leave the EU in a historic referendum held on Thursday.

The Leave campaign won by a margin of 3.8 percent, taking 51.9 percent of the vote.

The result has seen the British Pound drop to its lowest value in decades and Prime Minister David Cameron announcing his resign.

As Britons woke up to their new reality on Friday morning, many began to ask "what next?" 

The UK now finds itself at the beginning of a complicated two-year process due to end the country’s divorce from the 28-member bloc.  

The result has also raised questions about the future of the UK itself.

While the majority of people in England and Wales voted to leave the EU, Scotland and Northern Ireland largely voted to remain.

Scottish National Party leader Nicola Sturgeon already vowed to organise a second Scottish referendum on independence from the UK in the event of England voting to leave and Scotland voting to stay.

Scots previously voted to remain part of the UK in a referendum in late 2014 in a tightly contested race, but that was partly because they were worried that separation from the UK would have resulted in their ejection from the EU.

But with the latest development, Scots may now be swayed to vote for independence to secure their place in the bloc.

"Scotland has delivered a strong, unequivocal vote to remain in the EU, and I welcome that endorsement of our European status," Sturgeon said after the majority of results came in.

"The vote here makes clear that the people of Scotland see their future as part of the European Union."

Northern Ireland's Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, a member of the pro-Irish Sinn Féin party, has also called for a poll on what to do with the country’s borders with the Republic of Ireland, raising the prospect unifying the north and the south of the island.

Sinn Fein's national chairman Declan Kearney on Friday morning said Northern Ireland’s status in the UK was now in "sharp focus."

"We have a situation where the north is going to be dragged out on the tails of a vote in England," he said.

"That is a huge democratic deficit for our society, building on the existing democratic deficit of partition.

The British Government have now forfeited its mandate to represent the north of Ireland in relation to the European Union.

"We now have a situation where Brexit has become a further cost of partition, a further cost of the Union and Sinn Fein will now press our demand, our long standing demand, for a border poll."

The Irish government in Dublin called an emergency cabinet meeting on Friday to discuss the result, following which the Irish prime minister will make a public statement.

Ireland's central bank had warned that a withdrawal would hurt economic growth and jobs and significantly impact the financial sector, while a government-commissioned report found it could cut trade with Britain by at least 20 percent.

Contrary to most of England, the UK's capital city London also overwhelmingly voted to remain part of the EU, with 2,263,519 Londoners voting to remain as opposed to 1,513,232 who voted to leave.

There are even suggestions that an independence movement for a Greater London could emerge in reaction to the result.

Early on Friday morning a new page for a 'London Independence Party' was created on Twitter, with calls for an independent city-state going viral on social media.

More generally, the result of the referendum will see strong reverberations in British politics.

The centre-left opposition Labour Party, which strongly backed the Remain campaign, is expected to review its policies in the wake of the poll.

Meanwhile, former London mayor and Conservative Party member Boris Johnson, one of the most outspoken supporters of Brexit, has been highly tipped to replace outgoing Prime Minister David Cameron.

Leave campaign leader Boris Johnson leaves his home after Britain voted to leave the European Union, in London, June 24, 2016.

The result has also been to the liking of Nigel Farage’s eurosceptic UK Independence Party, which despite only winning one seat in last year’s general election came third with 12.6 percent of the vote.

Farage welcomed the result.

"This will be a victory for real people, a victory for ordinary people, a victory for decent people ... Let June 23 go down in our history as our independence day." 

He described the EU as "doomed" and "dying."

TRTWorld and agencies