Britain has voted to leave the European Union in a historic referendum that forced the country's prime minister to step down, upended markets and set the stage for a messy untangling with far-reaching implications. Electoral officials said early Friday that the "Leave" campaign had racked up 17.4 million votes -- compared to 16.1 million backing the status quo. That gave "Leave" 51.9 percent of the ballots against 48.1 percent for "Remain."
The dominoes are already falling quite quickly. British Prime Minister David Cameron, who campaigned heavily in support of the U.K. keeping its place in the E.U., is stepping down. Scottish leaders are preparing anew
for a referendum on independence, saying Scotland does not want to be removed from the E.U. "against our will." Right-wing parties across Europe are talking about holding "Leave" referenda
of their own. Global markets have declined sharply
, and Wall Street is poised to have an exceedingly painful day.
For some in the United States, Europe's unraveling may seem like a distant concern, unrelated to the economy on this side of the Atlantic, but as Vox explained
, "[T]urmoil in one of our most important trading partners can't be good for the U.S. economy."
A British decision to leave the EU isn't going to pose an immediate threat to this political order. But it could signal growing dissatisfaction with the status quo among European voters. That could have unpredictable results.... [T]he peace and stability of the EU era has been broadly good for Americans and the world, so turmoil in Europe is cause for worry.
As for what happens now, we're entering uncharted waters. NBC News' report
added, "While the outcome of the referendum is clear, what comes next is anything but. Questions remain over how the exit will play out and what the U.K.'s new relationship with will Europe look like. Trade deals with the EU members must now be renegotiated.... The divorce will take a minimum of two years to play out. In the meantime, the future of Europe remains uncertain."