WASHINGTON — President Obama declared in a statement issued by the White House this morning that “the people of the United Kingdom have spoken, and we respect their decision” on withdrawing from the European Union, while his British counterpart decided he’ll need to withdraw from 10 Downing Street.
“The special relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom is enduring, and the United Kingdom’s membership in NATO remains a vital cornerstone of U.S. foreign, security, and economic policy,” Obama said. “So too is our relationship with the European Union, which has done so much to promote stability, stimulate economic growth, and foster the spread of democratic values and ideals across the continent and beyond.”
“The United Kingdom and the European Union will remain indispensable partners of the United States even as they begin negotiating their ongoing relationship to ensure continued stability, security, and prosperity for Europe, Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and the world,” he added.
British Prime Minister David Cameron, who like Obama opposed the UK leaving the EU, vowed that “now the decision has been made to leave, we need to find the best way, and I will do everything I can to help.”
“We should be proud of the fact that in these islands we trust the people with these big decisions,” Cameron said. “…The will of the British people is an instruction that must be delivered. It was not a decision that was taken lightly, not least because so many things were said by so many different organizations about the significance of this decision.”
He reassured “Brits living in European countries, and European citizens living here, that there will be no immediate changes in your circumstances.”
“There will be no initial change in the way our people can travel, in the way our goods can move or the way our services can be sold… We must now prepare for a negotiation with the European Union. This will need to involve the full engagement of the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland governments to ensure that the interests of all parts of our United Kingdom are protected and advanced.”
Cameron stressed “this will require strong, determined and committed leadership.”
“I am very proud and very honored to have been prime minister of this country for six years,” he continued. “…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.”
Cameron said there was “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.”
He said he’d already spoken with Queen Elizabeth II about his decision.
“While we are not perfect, I do believe we can be a model of a multi-racial, multi-faith democracy, where people can come and make a contribution and rise to the very highest that their talent allows,” he added.
The governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, warned “some market and economic volatility can be expected as this process unfolds.”
“As a backstop, and to support the functioning of markets, the Bank of England stands ready to provide more than £250bn of additional funds through its normal facilities. The Bank of England is also able to provide substantial liquidity in foreign currency, if required,” Carney said. “We expect institutions to draw on this funding if and when appropriate, just as we expect them to draw on their own resources as needed in order to provide credit, to support markets and to supply other financial services to the real economy.”
“In the coming weeks, the Bank will assess economic conditions and will consider any additional policy responses… We have taken all the necessary steps to prepare for today’s events. In the future we will not hesitate to take any additional measures required to meet our responsibilities as the United Kingdom moves forward.”
In a joint statement by Martin Schulz, president of the European Parliament, Donald Tusk, president of the European Council, Mark Rutte, holder of the Presidency of the Council of the EU, and Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, the EU leaders said “we regret this decision but respect it.”
“We now expect the United Kingdom government to give effect to this decision of the British people as soon as possible, however painful that process may be. Any delay would unnecessarily prolong uncertainty. We have rules to deal with this in an orderly way. Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union sets out the procedure to be followed if a member state decides to leave the European Union. We stand ready to launch negotiations swiftly with the United Kingdom regarding the terms and conditions of its withdrawal from the European Union,” they continued.
“Until this process of negotiations is over, the United Kingdom remains a member of the European Union, with all the rights and obligations that derive from this. According to the Treaties which the United Kingdom has ratified, EU law continues to apply to the full to and in the United Kingdom until it is no longer a member.”