The UK has voted to leave the European Union after its referendum Thursday by a margin of 52 percent to 48 percent.
Scotland and Northern Ireland voted overwhelmingly to remain in the bloc, while England and Wales largely voted to leave. That fueled pressure for referendums on both territories leaving the United Kingdom.
“I think an independence referendum is now highly likely,” Scotland First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said, calling it “democratically unacceptable” for Scotland to be forced out despite a regional majority voting to stay in.
After the vote tally was completed, British Prime Minister David Cameron, who led the remain campaign, announced plans to step down by October in a statement Friday.
“I will do everything I can as prime minister to steady the ship over the coming weeks and months,” Cameron said. “But I do think it would be right for me to try to be the captain that steers our country to its next destination.”
“Dare to dream that the dawn is breaking on an independent United Kingdom,” U.K. Independence Party leader and Leave campaign supporter Nigel Farage said.
“This is a crushing decision,” Labour legislator Keith Vaz said. “This is a terrible day for Britain and a terrible day for Europe. In 1,000 years, I would never have believed that the British people would vote for this.”
European leaders acknowledged that the British vote would further limit their ability to move forward with integration in the region.
“Today marks a turning point for Europe,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel said. “It is a turning point for the European unification process.”
The value of the British pound and international stocks plummeted as results streamed in. Bank of England head Mark Carney pledged Friday that the bank took “all the necessary steps to prepare.”
— Samuel Oakford (@samueloakford) June 24, 2016
An estimated 46,499,537 people were entitled to take part in the vote, according to figures from the Electoral Commission.
On the ballot paper, voters were asked: “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?”
Polling stations opened at 7 a.m. local time (2 a.m. EDT) and closed at 10 p.m. local time.