The Britons have taken a historic decision: with a majority of 52% they voted to exit the EU. Even though the margin was more pronounced than expected, a deep split has been revealed in the country after the referendum. While Brexit supporters such as Nigel Farage, Daniel Hannan and Boris Johnson see themselves as victors, David Cameron accepted the consequences and announced his resignation. A new party leader should now be elected at the Conservative Party Conference at the start of October. There is no question that this candidate will be elected from the ranks of the so-called Brexiteers, so that conflict with the predominantly pro-EU parliament is inevitable. It is completely unclear at the moment as to what will happen next. Although David Cameron’s phased resignation has bought the Britons some time, we are still no closer to finding a solution to the actual problem. The leave supporters have yet to offer a clear answer as to how the future relations between the UK and the EU should look like.
Many voters are only now just realising how far-reaching the consequences of their decision will be, a realisation that appears to be reflected in the petition for a second referendum that has been signed by millions. No matter how tempting it might be to classify the referendum as an error of judgement and continue doing business as before, such an approach would be highly questionable from a democratic perspective. The Britons will now have to deal with the result of the referendum, whether they like it or not, which will inevitably bring about a long period of greatly heightened uncertainty. Not only does the question of a replacement for David Cameron as Conservative Party leader (and therefore as Prime Minister) have to be clarified, but also if and when the government will notify the EU officially about its desire to leave. Only then will the actual negotiations start with the EU – both about the exit terms as well as on the critical issue as to how relations between the EU and the UK should be regulated in the future. At the same time, the Scots, who voted with a clear majority to remain in the EU, will be making noise in the background. The calls for a second Scottish independence referendum are loud even though it is doubtful whether it will come that far. Ultimately, a referendum would require the approval of the UK Parliament.