British Prime Minister David Cameron resigned from office early today after losing the contentious referendum that saw UK nationals decide to pull out of the European Union.
Britons filed into polling stations across the United Kingdom on Thursday to vote on the referendum that decided whether or not the UK will remain a member of the European Union.
Voting for the historic vote opened at 7 AM local time and closed at 10 PM. Adult citizens from England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland were all permitted to vote. Citizens of Commonwealth countries, such as Nigeria and India, who reside in the UK, were also eligible to vote. Irish citizens living in the UK were also given the vote.
After polling data shows that roughly 52 percent of voters opted to leave, Mr. Cameron announced his resignation and would leave office in three months.
UK citizens have long been split over its inclusion in the EU. Support for the institution reached its peak in the late 1990s but dipped to its lowest level in June 2015.
Those advocating remaining in the EU, including both Prime Minister David Cameron and opposition party leader Jeremy Corbyn, believe that leaving would damage the British economy. The EU is the UK’s largest trading partner, and its exit would, therefore, harm economic relations between the UK and EU member states. British citizens can also work abroad easily in EU countries, but such jobs would be jeopardized if the UK leaves the EU.
The “In” campaign also emphasizes that EU membership keeps the cost of living low. For example, certain flights within the EU cost 40 percent less for member states, and Britons are entitled to cheap healthcare in other EU member states.
The pro-EU camp also believes that remaining in the EU keeps the UK safe. EU membership allows law enforcement agencies to share intelligence with one another, which can prevent criminals and terrorists from crossing borders.
On the other hand, the “Leave” or “Brexit” campaign argues that the EU is too controlling of the UK, as roughly 50 percent of British legislation comes from the EU Parliament.
Meanwhile, British influence on EU affairs is declining, as the UK only has 8 percent of votes in the EU Parliament.
Brexit advocates also argue that the autonomy gained from leaving the EU would allow the UK to formulate its own global trade deals without EU approval.
One of the most contentious issues has been that of migration. Brexit campaigners blame the EU for the influx of migrants and refugees into the UK and argue that these migrants deprive UK citizens of jobs and social benefits. Tensions over migration reached a high last week when Jo Cox, a pro-EU member of Parliament, was shot and killed by a far-right assassin.