Yesterday, voters in the United Kingdom narrowly opted to leave the European Union, an unprecedented political move which set world markets on edge and prompted the immediate resignation announcement of Prime Minister David Cameron, who will step down in the fall. The contentious "Brexit" referendum's vote was split 51.9% to 48.1% across the UK, with a record-high 71.8% turnout. The BBC's information page contains interactive maps and breakdowns by geography and age groups.
What happens now? At the moment, the referendum results are not legally binding until the UK invokes Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon. As Time notes, the UK Parliament could nullify the referendum if asked, although Cameron has stated that the choice of the voters will be honored. Because citizens of Scotland voted largely in favor of remaining, there is also a possibility that the Scottish independence movement will be revived in an effort to keep Scotland in the EU.
It's estimated that negotiations for the UK's withdrawal from the EU could take nearly two years to complete. NBC News has outlined many of the key steps. EU leaders are expected to work quickly to prevent other potential withdrawal actions, and to determine next steps with the United Kingdom's exit.
The Goodson Law Library has just received a timely new title, Britain Alone! The Implications and Consequences of United Kingdom Exit from the E.U., which explores many of the ramifications related to a withdrawal.
For more information about European Union membership and withdrawal procedures, try a search of the Duke University Libraries catalog for European Union – membership, consult the European Union research guide, or Ask a Librarian.