DAVID Cameron has resigned in the wake of the shock result in the EU referendum.
Just over a year since he was hailed for winning the first Conservative majority in 23 years, the Prime Minister announced he would step down on one of the most dramatic days in politics of postwar British history.
Boris Johnson, the architect of Mr Cameron’s EU referendum defeat, was quickly installed as favourite to succeed him. A new prime minister will be chosen in a leadership election to conclude in time for the party’s autumn conference in Birmingham in October.
Speaking in Downing Street yesterday in front of dozens of journalists from around the world, with staff from neighbouring Whitehall departments looking on through gates and fences, Mr Cameron’s voice broke with emotion as he said: “I love this country, and I feel honoured to have served it.”
Standing next to his wife Samantha in Downing Street, Mr Cameron said “the will of the people is an instruction that must be delivered”.
With the pound sliding to once-in-a-generation lows and financial markets about to open, the Prime Minister tried to assure investors that “Britain’s economy is fundamentally strong”. He added that UK citizens living in Europe, and EU citizens in the UK would see “no immediate change in their circumstances”.
Mr Cameron said: “I fought this campaign in the only way I know how, which is to say directly with passion what I think and feel, head, heart and soul. I’ve held nothing back.
“But the British people have made a very clear decision to take a different path. As such, I think the country requires fresh leadership to take it in a new 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 the country to its next destination.”
Turning to go back into Number 10, the Prime Minister comforted his wife, who also appeared close to tears.
The Prime Minister spoke to the Queen by telephone yesterday morning, and visited Buckingham Palace to speak to her in person in the afternoon.
Plans for the UK’s negotiation with and formal exit from the EU will be discussed at a Cabinet meeting on Monday, before Mr Cameron meets EU leaders later in the week.
The end of his premiership completes the breakdown in childhood friendships with Mr Johnson and Michael Gove, the leaders of the Leave campaign. A victory party yesterday afternoon became a wake for Mr Cameron’s political career, with both men paying tribute to him.
Speaking of his sadness at his decision to stand down, Mr Johnson described the Prime Minister as “one of the most extraordinary politicians of our age”.
In a sober and statesmanlike victory speech, the former London mayor paid tribute his one-time friend and moved to reassure pro-EU voters that Brexit would not put an end to European cooperation.