London: British Prime Minister David Cameron on Friday announced to step down after the country voted to leave the European Union in a historic referendum, ending its 43-year membership with the 28-nation bloc.
The world eagerly waited as the final results were declared at the Manchester Town Hall. Of the 33,577,342 votes cast, 17,410,742 votes were for 'Leave', accounting for 51.9%, and 16,141,241 votes, 48.1%, for 'Remain'.
Reacting to the verdict, Cameron said, “British people have made a decision that not only needs to be respected but those on the losing side of argument should help to make it work.”
“I will do everything I can as PM to steady the ship over coming weeks and months,” Cameron said after the Brexit verdict.
The verdict, considered a huge blow to the “European project of greater unity” since World War Two, sent ripples to the global financial markets on Friday, forcing many countries, including India, to adopt defensive measures to tackle the crisis.
The pound fell as much as 10 percent against the dollar to touch levels last seen in 1985, on fears the decision could hit investment in the world's fifth-largest economy, threatening London's role as a global financial capital and ushering in months of political uncertainty.
The stock markets headed for one of the biggest slumps on record, and billions of dollars were wiped off the value of European companies. Britain's big banks took a $130 billion battering, with Lloyds and Barclays falling as much as 30 percent at the opening of trade, reports said.
An emotional Cameron, who led the "Remain" campaign to defeat, losing the gamble he took when he called the referendum three years ago, said he would leave office by October.
"The British people have made the very clear decision to take a different path and as such I think the country requires fresh leadership to take it in this direction," he said in a televised address.
"I do not think it would be right for me to be the captain that steers our country to its next destination," he added, appearing to choke back tears before walking back through the black door of No. 10 Downing Street with his arm around his wife Samantha.
Quitting the EU could cost Britain access to the EU`s trade barrier-free single market and means it must seek new trade accords with countries around the world.
The United Kingdom itself could break apart, with politicians in Scotland - where nearly two-thirds of voters wanted to stay in the EU - calling for a new vote on independence.
The Bank of England pledged a huge financial backstop to calm plunging markets. Governor Mark Carney said it was offering to provide more than 250 billion pounds ($347 billion) plus "substantial" foreign currency liquidity and it was ready to take additional measures if needed.
Other central banks around the globe also intervened in markets. The European Central Bank said it was ready to provide euro and foreign currency liquidity if necessary.
The EU for its part will be economically and politically damaged, facing the departure not only of its most free-market proponent but also a member with a UN. Security Council veto, a powerful army and nuclear capability.
In one go, the bloc will lose around a sixth of its economic output. The result emboldened eurosceptics in other member states, with populist leaders in France and the Netherlands demanding their own referendums to leave.
The vote will initiate at least two years of divorce proceedings with the EU, the first exit by any member state.
Cameron - who has been premier for six years and called the referendum in a bid to head off pressure from domestic eurosceptics - said it would be up to his successor to formally start the exit process.
His Conservative Party rival Boris Johnson, the former London mayor who became the most recognisable face of the "Leave" camp, is now widely tipped to seek his job.
“This doesn’t mean that UK will be in any way less united nor does it mean that it will be any less European. We cannot turn our backs on Europe, we are a part of Europe,” Johnson said.
“But EU has become too remote, too opaque and not accountable enough to the people it is meant to serve.
“I believe, we now have a glorious opportunity, we can pass our laws and set our taxes according to needs of UK economy.
“There's no way of dealing with a decision on this scale except by putting it to people. Britain will continue to be a great European power,” the pro Brexit campaigner added.
The United States has reacted cautiously to the decision by Britain's voters.
The White House said in a statement that President Obama has been briefed on the incoming returns in the UK referendum, and he will continue to be updated by his team "as the situation warrants."
The statement added, "We expect the President will have an opportunity to speak to Prime Minister Cameron over the course of the next day, and we will release further comment as soon as appropriate."
Britain's decision to opt out of the EU rattled the Indian financial markets, shaving over 880 points, or 3.27 per cent, off a key equities index, while pulling the rupee around Rs 68 to a US dollar mark.
Both Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and Reserve Bank of India Governor Raghuram Rajan sought to calm the markets and assured there was no cause for panic as India's economic fundamentals remained strong along with other macro indicators.
India is well prepared to deal with Brexit, Jaitley said.
While Rajan said that the RBI is “watching all markets, including currencies & will provide liquidity wherever necessary.”