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Brexit, Cameron resignation signal momentous change for UK

Great Britain voted 52 to 48 percent Thursday to become the first nation to leave the European Union. The vote prompted Prime Minister David Cameron -- a leading voice in the “Remain” camp -- to announce his resignation, though he will stay on until October to ensure a smooth transition. Special correspondent Malcolm Brabant takes a look at how Britain is readying itself for a post-EU paradigm.

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    The British people have spoken, and, in voting to leave the European Union, have sent shockwaves around the world.

    Special correspondent Malcolm Brabant begins our coverage in London.

  • WOMAN:

    The U.K. has voted to leave the European Union.

  • MALCOLM BRABANT:

    The official word came just after 7:00 in the morning, U.K. time.

    Rapturous cheers went up at leave parties. The final tally, 52 percent, more than 17 million people, opted to leave the 28-member European Union.

    AILEEN QUINTAN, "Leave" Supporter: We have actually shown that opposition to the E.U. isn't a small fringe — fringe minority.

  • MALCOLM BRABANT:

    For the 48 percent who voted to stay, the result was devastating.

  • MAN:

    I think it's going to lead to great political, economic, business uncertainty.

  • MALCOLM BRABANT:

    The political fallout was instant. Prime Minister David Cameron, who led the campaign to remain, announced that he will step down by October.

  • DAVID CAMERON, Prime Minister, 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.

  • MALCOLM BRABANT:

    Cameron promised the referendum in 2013, in part to appease E.U. skeptics in his own conservative party.

  • MAN:

    We got our country back.

  • MALCOLM BRABANT:

    U.K. Independence Party, deeply anti-E.U., was elated in victory. Its leader, Nigel Farage, used an anti-immigration campaign to rally support.

  • NIGEL FARAGE, Leader, UK Independence Party:

    The E.U. is failing, the E.U. is dying. I hope we have knocked the first brick out of the wall. It's a victory for ordinary people, decent people. It's a victory against the big merchant banks, against the big businesses and against big politics.

  • MALCOLM BRABANT:

    From Brussels, there was a clear message that Britain should leave as soon as possible, and shouldn't be given any special treatment in order to discourage other nations from following suit.

    JEAN-CLAUDE JUNCKER, President, European Commission (through interpreter): Personally, I'm very sad about this decision, but, of course, we have to respect it. We will stand strong and uphold the European Union's core values of promoting peace and the well-being of its people'. The union of 27 member states will continue.

  • MALCOLM BRABANT:

    From German Chancellor Angela Merkel, there were questions about what comes next.

    ANGELA MERKEL, Chancellor, Germany (through interpreter): We don't know about the consequences of this step that will appear within the next days, weeks, months, and years. That will depend upon how we, the other 27 members, are able and willing to react. There is no quick key solution that we can take from this referendum decision. That would only divide Europe even more.

  • MALCOLM BRABANT:

    So, what is the mechanism for separation? Britain is required to invoke the E.U.'s Article 50, which gives London two years to negotiate withdrawal. That includes the fate of existing trade deals, and travel and work within the E.U. for British citizens.

    A majority of the 27 other member states must approve the deal. All the uncertainty sent global markets from Tokyo to New York into freefall. And the British pound plummeted to its lowest point in over 30 years. The economic fallout could be a sign of things to come, and those people who voted to stay in the European Union are pointing to say that they were right.

    But it's done little to change the convictions of voters in the majority. Most of London voted to remain, but take a journey to the East End, and you meet poor white working-class Londoners who voted to leave.

    They feel overwhelmed by immigration, blaming the newcomers for driving down wages and taking their jobs.

    Brian Hughes is one of those people.

  • BRIAN HUGHES, Driver:

    I think it's due to all the immigrants coming in the country, because they're getting cheaper labor in, basically. I have been a driver for 27 years, and I decided that I can't do the job anymore, even though there's nothing wrong with me.

  • MALCOLM BRABANT:

    Novelist Dreda Say Mitchell believes that metropolitan London has lost touch.

  • DREDA SAY MITCHELL, Author:

    I think we have been living in a bubble, where we have been thinking that our experiences within London have been the same experiences that most people outside of London have been having, and it's not been true.

  • MALCOLM BRABANT:

    To the north, in Edinburgh, Scotland, where the remain vote won, talk on the streets was of a second chance at independence from Britain.

  • MAN:

    This will trigger a vote for independence in Scotland. And I think it's one — the same, one that I would think very differently about.

  • MALCOLM BRABANT:

    Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said that second vote was highly likely.

  • NICOLA STURGEON, First Minister, Scotland:

    Scotland faces the prospect of being taken out of the E.U. against her will. I regard that as democratically unacceptable.

  • MALCOLM BRABANT:

    Leaders in Northern Ireland made a similar call, saying there should be a vote to unite with the Irish Republic.

  • MAN:

    For us to be dragged out of European Union against our will is absolutely unacceptable.

  • MALCOLM BRABANT:

    All signs of the seismic change that has happened, and may yet take place in the future, all as a result of yesterday's vote — Judy.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Malcolm, I know you talked to a lot of people today out on the streets. What else did you hear from them?

  • MALCOLM BRABANT:

    Well, it's — I think London really is completely devastated today, because it is a city that in the main voted to remain in the E.U.

    And I think the kind of professional classes are very sort of stunned by what has happened. They went to bed believing that they were going to be in the European Union and woke up to find out that they were in a small little island off the west coast of the European Union, and I think that's really stunned them.

    Boris Johnson today when he came out of his house, he was booed roundly by people who had gathered outside. There has just been a demonstration outside Parliament of cyclists who were cursing Boris as they went past.

    But I was down in East London today and talked to some people who were quite happy about this, but these were mainly sort of white people in an area that really has been overwhelmed, they would say, by immigrants. And I talked to a taxi driver, for example, who said that he voted for nostalgia. He wanted it to go back to the way it was before, which to many people would seem as not being a very forward way of thinking.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    And, Malcolm, just quickly, what have you learned about who — how people voted on each side by age, by income?

  • MALCOLM BRABANT:

    Well, the most staggering fact of all, I think, is the age difference between those who voted to remain and those who voted to get out.

    And the young people, more than anybody else, they wanted to stay in, because it was their future that they were voting for. But it was older people who decided that they thought it was best for Britain to go out. And also the same is true of the wealth and also education gap.

    More wealthy, richer people, better-educated people, they voted to stay within the European Union. And those who are lower down the socioeconomic classes, they voted to get out. And the key sort of vote in all of this was immigration. And the people who wanted to stay in thought that immigration was a very good thing, but those who wanted to stay out thought that immigration was something that really had to change.

    These are the main democratic points of this referendum.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Well, I know we're only beginning to see the repercussions. And, Malcolm, I know you are going to continue to report for us. Thank you.

  • MALCOLM BRABANT:

    Thank you, Judy.

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