British Prime Minister David Cameron on Friday announced he would resign in the coming months, following the UK’s dramatic vote to leave the European Union.
Cameron said he is not the “captain” that will steer the country through negotiations to leave the 28-nation bloc, which he opposed, and said he would tender his resignation by the time of the Conservative party conference in the fall.
He promised to try to “steady the ship” over the next months, but said a new leader should be installed by early October.
“I do not think it would be right for me to try to be the captain that steers our country to its next destination,” the British leader said outside his official Downing Street residence in London.
The UK requires “fresh leadership,” he said, adding that the will of the British people must be respected.
Cameron said that he would leave it to his successor to trigger the formal process for Britain to leave the European Union.
“I think it’s right that this new prime minister takes the decision about when to trigger Article 50,” Cameron said.
Britain has voted to leave the European Union by 51.9 percent to 48.1 percent, final results from all 382 of Britain’s local counting centers showed on Friday.
The final result showed 17.4 million people had voted “Leave” and 16.1 million people had voted “Remain” in the EU membership referendum.
World financial markets were rocked Friday by Britain’s unprecedented vote, with stock markets and oil prices crashing and the pound hitting its lowest level in three decades.
Earlier, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said Cameron will stay on as prime minister even though Britain has voted to leave the European Union, as European leaders lamented the “sad” result of the UK referendum. “He will remain prime minister, he will carry out the instructions of the British people,” Hammond told Sky News television.
‘A sad day for Europe’
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said on Friday he regretted Britain’s decision to leave the EU, calling it a “sad day for Europe.
“The early morning news from #GreatBritain are truly sobering. It looks like a sad day for #Europe +the #UnitedKingdom,” Steinmeier wrote on Twitter.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault on Friday also bemoaned Britain’s “sad” decision to leave the EU, saying Europe must win back the trust of its people.
“Sad for the United Kingdom. Europe carries on but it must react and win back the trust of its people. It is urgent,” he tweeted.
EU Parliament President Martin Schulz said he would speak with German Chancellor Angela Merkel “on how we can avoid a chain reaction” of other EU states following.
“The chain reaction that is being celebrated everywhere now by euroskeptics won’t happen,” he said.
The EU was the biggest single market in the world and “Great Britain has just cut its ties with that market,” Schulz said. “That’ll have consequences and I don’t believe other countries will be encouraged to follow that dangerous path.
“I am not shocked,” he said of the results of the British referendum, adding: “We were prepared.”
Top European Union officials were hunkering down in Brussels trying to work out how to navigate uncharted waters after the shocking decision by British voters to leave the 28-nation bloc.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker was hosting talks Friday with the leaders of the European Council and Parliament, along with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, whose country holds the EU’s rotating presidency.
The four will try to agree to a European position on the vote, which could see a member country leave the bloc for the first time ever, ahead of a summit of EU leaders in Brussels starting on Tuesday.
Parliamentary leaders were meeting separately, and European commissioners — the EU’s executive body — could hold separate talks later.
The United States was reacting cautiously to the decision by Britain’s voters to bolt the European Union, with a White House official saying only that President Barack Obama is being kept up to date on developments.
The official, who insisted on speaking anonymously because of the ongoing events overseas, said Obama was expected to speak with Prime Minister David Cameron “over the course of the next day.”
“We will release further comment as soon as possible,” the official’s statement said.
Obama has encouraged Britain to remain in the EU, but has said the decision ultimately was up to the voters.