The BBC, ITV, and Sky News have all called the Brexit vote in favor of leaving the European Union. The "Leave" side leads by nearly a million votes with about 85 percent of districts reporting.
Bookmakers had been favoring Remain by 3 to 1 before voting started. The markets did not appear to have anticipated Leave either, with severe downward corrections to the sterling (which hit 30-year lows) beginning with the first results announcements at the beginning of the night.
More than 80 Conservative members of Parliament who backed the "Leave" campaign signed a letter urging Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron, who supported "Remain" and was re-elected as prime minister last year in part on a promise to hold a referendum, to remain as prime minister. ITV's Allegra Stratton reported that Cameron would make a "dignfiied exit" that would not be "immediate."
In the wake of the call, supporters of "Remain," who spent much of the campaign warning British voters of the negative economic consequences of leaving the European Union—some imposed by the EU itself—blamed voters for voting "emotionally," as Labor member of Parliament Keith Vaz put it.
Jacob Rees-Mogg, a pro-Leave Conservative member of Parliament, argued that the "Leave" campaign was about returning sovereignty to the people of the United Kingdom, which the Parliament is supposed to return in full to the people every time a new parliament is elected.
Rees-Mogg also did not rule out the possibility of a new general election being triggered by the Brexit vote. The British government is expected to invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which governs how member states of the EU leave the organization. Some pro-Leave campaigners insist that's not necessary, as the referendum was a rejection of the treaty, which governs the EU, as a whole.
Eurocrats in Brussels are expected to make the process of leaving the EU difficult for the UK. Rees Mogg suggested that if that happened the EU wouldn't be a club anyone would want to belong to in the first place and would more resemble a Mafia.
The first minister of Scotland, which held a referendum about remaining in the U.K. in 2014, has suggested that Scotland could hold another referendum about the U.K. if the U.K. decided to leave the EU. Scotland broke in favor of the "Remain" side, setting up the possibility that while the United Kingdom voted the EU out it could keep a foot in Great Britain. "It's clear that Scotland sees its future as part of the EU," she said after the vote. 62 percent of Scottish voters chose 'Remain.' Sinn Fein in Northern Irleand, which went 55 percent in favor of Remain, may also call for a referendum about remaining with the U.K.
Howard Dean declared on Twitter that "the sun has finally set" over the British Empire. Joining the European Free Trade Association, made up of four Western European nations, is another option for the U.K.
Another possibility is that at some point in the near future, after some amount of negotiation between the British government and the EU, another referendum is held to "approve" the exit negotiations.
For their part, BBC analysts have described the drops in the markets as the world coming down around them. Pro-Leave Conservative member of Parliament Andrea Leadsom minimized the movement in the markets. "Markets are volatile," she noted, suggesting the intense fearmongering by the Remain side could've contributed to that volatility and insisting that the fundamentals of the British economy remains strong. "We need calm," she explained to the BBC anchors.
"fundamentals in our economy remains very strong."