The “most expensive divorce proceeding in the history of the world” has begun.
The phrase, coined by United States billionaire Wilbur Ross in an interview with Bloomberg, describes the recent decision by the United Kingdom to leave the European Union.
On Thursday, the UK voted 52 percent to 48 percent to leave the EU. It’s the first country to do so, and the decision is already causing a massive reaction from world leaders and organizations.
Bloomberg asserted that the decision to leave should sound an alarm for EU leaders:
The EU should regard the referendum result as a wake-up call. Discontent with how the bloc operates isn’t restricted to Britain. A survey of more than 10,000 voters across Europe published by the Pew Research Center earlier this month showed rising dissatisfaction. The proportion of French respondents with a favorable view of the EU, for example, slumped to 38 percent from 69 percent in 2004; in Spain the deterioration was to 47 percent from 80 percent.
During the vote, the British pound fell roughly 11 percent and dropped below $1.35 for the first time since 1985. At time of publication, the pound was at $1.37.
“Stock markets around the world are also falling sharply after the campaign to leave the EU won Thursday’s referendum,” CNN reported.
Nicola Sturgeon hints at independence; David Cameron resigns
The decision is also spurring Scotland and Northern Ireland—which both voted to remain in the United Kingdom—into action. Time reported:
In Scotland, 62% of the U.K.’s northernmost country on the British mainland voted to remain in the E.U. — strikingly higher than Britain’s overall 48% Remain vote.
Early Friday morning, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said, “The vote here makes clear that the people of Scotland see their future as part of the European Union,” Newsweek reports.
On Sept. 18, 2014, Scotland held a referendum for independence from the UK—and the majority voted against it. However, Time reported that “Scots will not appreciate being forced out of the E.U. by English voters against their wishes.”
UK’s decision to leave the EU will likely lead to another independence referendum—but it was far from the only announcement to come after the vote had been announced.
Change in the offing at 10 Downing Street
On Friday, Britain’s prime minister, David Cameron, resigned.
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In his resignation speech, Cameron said:
I was absolutely clear about my belief that Britain is stronger, safer and better off inside the European Union, and I made clear the referendum was about this and this alone — not the future of any single politician, including myself.
But the British people have made a very clear decision to take a different path, and as such I think the country requires fresh leadership to take it in this direction.
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.
This is not a decision I have taken lightly, but I do believe it is in the national interest to have a period of stability and then the new leadership required.
There is no need for a precise timetable today, but in my view we should aim to have a new prime minister in place by the start of the Conservative Party conference in October.
The global response
World leaders reacted to the news, as well. International Business Times reported:
German Chancellor Angela Merkel termed Brexit a setback for European integration and called for a calm analysis of the situation without rushing into any decisions.
“Our goal must be to have close future relations between Britain and EU,” she said. She added that she has invited the European Council’s President Donald Tusk, French President François Hollande and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi for talks in Berlin on Monday.
Hollande gave his own address on Friday, calling UK’s decision to leave “grievous.” He also took to Twitter:
— France in the UK (@FranceintheUK) June 24, 2016
— France in the UK (@FranceintheUK) June 24, 2016
Other leaders echoed the sentiment that the decision was detrimental.
“Europe’s significance and position in the world will be less important,” Australian Chancellor Christian Kern said.
“This decision is serious and irreversible,” said Bohuslav Sobotka, Czech Republic’s prime minister.
Dalia Grybauskaitė, Lithuania’s president, tweeted the following:
#Brexit: respect, regret, re-engage
— Dalia Grybauskaitė (@Grybauskaite_LT) June 24, 2016
Other leaders spoke of the urgent need for action:
“It’s not a tragedy,” said Robert Fico, Slovakia’s prime minister. “It’s a reality. It’s a reality that the remaining 27 EU countries will have to react to very quickly.”
Fico will take over the rotating position of the European Council’s president on July 1.
Andrzej Duda, president of Poland, agreed: “One must do everything to prevent other countries from leaving.”