British Prime Minister David Cameron (shown on left) is out — or soon will be — as the first political repercussion of the historic Brexit vote Thursday. Cameron, who alienated many in his own Conservative Party and drove many into the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) by his slavish support for the European Union, today announced his plans for resigning in October. He made his announcement outside No. 10 Downing Street, the official residence for the prime minister, which, two days earlier, he had used as a backdrop for his last-ditch appeal to voters, urging them to vote to remain in the EU.
However, British voters were listening instead to UKIP leader Nigel Farage, former London mayor Boris Johnson, and other Brexit (British exit) advocates. The “Leave” camp carried the day, with 52 percent of the vote (17.4 million people) to “Remain’s” 48 percent (16.1 million people) on a soggy referendum day that featured torrential rains and widespread flooding throughout much of Britain.
"I will do everything I can as Prime Minister to steady the ship over the coming weeks and months, but I do not think it would be right for me to try to be the captain that steers our country to its next destination," Cameron said, utilizing metaphors that were, incidentally, appropriate for the election day’s weather, as well as the uncharted waters Britain will be navigating in the coming months.
"This is not a decision I've taken lightly. But I do believe it's in the national interest to have a period of stability, and then the new leadership required," he said, indicating that he would continue on as prime minister for the next three months, and would step down in October.
"In my view we should aim to have a new prime minister in place by the start of the Conservative Party conference in October," he said. "A negotiation with the European Union will need to begin under a new prime minister, and I think it's right that this new prime minister takes the decision about when to trigger Article 50 and start the formal and legal process of leaving the EU."
Calls for Cameron’s resignation have resounded over the past couple of years, and not only by Brexit advocates angry over his kowtowing to Brussels. More recently, in April, he faced widespread outrage and calls for resignation over the “Panama Papers” scandal, in which he confessed to having owned shares in a tax haven fund that he had failed to reveal previously.
Labour's Brexit Woes
The Labour Party is having its own leadership problems, with party leader Jeremy Corbyn (shown) under fire for what some say is his “disastrous” leadership (or lack thereof) of Labour’s Remain campaign. Former Prime Minister and Labour Party leader Tony Blair described Corbyn’s effort against Brexit as “pretty lukewarm.” Peter Mandelson, a former Labour deputy prime minister, accused Corbyn of speaking in “curiously muted” voice during the campaign and sending “mixed messages.”
Corbyn’s ambivalence on the Brexit was evident, but not surprising, considering his long public stance against British membership in the EU. An open socialist in the mold of Bernie Sanders, Corbyn usually opposed the EU on far different grounds from those cited by UKIP and other Brexit advocates. However, after having won his leadership post, he adopted the official Labour Party position in favor of “Remain,” though critics say he never showed the conviction needed for a successful campaign.
Many Labour Party critics are furious over Corbyn’s admission, during a recent BBC interview, that the UK would be unable to put a ceiling on immigration if it remained in the EU. That was a huge concession of a major point the Brexit campaign has used to win popular support. The migration/immigration/refugee issue played a key role in the Leave/Remain contest, with Labour, Conservative, and independent voters expressing exasperation with Britain’s loss of sovereignty and loss of control over its own borders. The enormous crisis caused last year by the refugee deluge orchestrated by autocrats at the United Nations and the European Union provided a massive boost to Brexit efforts, and the continuing migration crisis undoubtedly played a crucial role in motivating many voters to get out and mark their ballots for the “Leave” side.
One of the biggest questions now is: How many other EU member states will be inspired to take the same course? As we have reported previously, the Brexit could be the first of the falling dominoes, with a Swexit (Sweden), Czexit Czech Republic), Frexit (France), Grexit (Greece), (Auxit (Austria) ... and more, to follow.
Photos of David Cameron and Jeremy Corbyn: AP Images