LONDON -- David Cameron has announced his resignation as prime minister after the United Kingdom's historic vote to leave the European Union.
He refused to give an exact time table for his departure, but said that he wanted a new leader to be in place by October when his Conservative Party holds its annual conference..
In his statement, delivered outside the front door of 10 Downing Street, he said "the British people have voted to leave the EU and their will must be respected ... the will of the British people is an instruction which must be delivered."
"There can be no doubt about the result."
He reassured markets and investors, saying Britain's economy was strong and also pledged there would be no sudden change in circumstance either for Britons who live abroad or Europeans who live in the U.K.
Bookmaker Paddy Power is offering odds of 4/5 on former London Mayor Boris Johnson succeeding Cameron as the next British prime minister.
In all, 51.89 percent of the population voted to leave the European Union, while 48.11 percent voted to remain. Almost 46.5 million people were registered to vote in Thursday's referendum.
Pro-"Brexit" campaigners cheered, but the largely unexpected decision played havoc on world markets. London's FTSE 100 index plunged by more than 8 percent at the open, with bank stocks getting hit particularly hard.
Pro-independence UKIP party leader and Leave campaigner Nigel Farage told a group of journalists at Westminster after his side's victory that the EU is "dying."
Calling for a "Brexit government," he added "we've given ourselves the chance to rejoin the world ... June 23rd needs to become a national bank holiday and we will call it Independence Day."
The result reflects a deeply polarized nation.
In one of the most divisive campaigns in recent memory, polls had consistently shown voters split down the middle, with the outcome too close to call, and wavering voters likely to determine the result.
The U.K. has been a member of the European Union -- and its precursors -- since 1973.
The results have prompted mixed reaction from politicians. London Mayor Sadiq Kahn said that the decision was a "clear message" but urged calm.
European Council President Donald Tusk said the U.K.'s decision to leave the European Union was "historic, but not a moment for hysterical reactions.
"Today on behalf of the 27 (European) leaders, I can say that we are determined to keep our unity as the 27. For all of us, the union is the framework for our common future."
President Barack Obama "has been briefed" on the results and expects to speak to Cameron later in the day.
Donald Trump, the Republican candidate for the president, hailed the U.K.'s decision to "reassert control over their own politics, borders and economy."
In a Facebook post, he pledged to "strengthen ties with a free, independent Britain" if elected and urged U.S. voters to heed the U.K.'s vote for change.
Markets start freaking out
The shock development will have profound implications for markets and economies around the world.
Along with the FTSE's disastrous opening, the pound has plunged more than 12 percent to below $1.34, its lowest level since 1985. Japan's Nikkei tanked 6.7 percent, and Hong Kong's main index dropped 3.7 percent.
Stock futures indicate that markets in London and New York will also tank when they open for trading. Dow futures are down more than 650 points.
Bank of England Governor Mark Carney said the body is "well prepared" and "won't hesitate" to take additional measures as markets adjust.
The "U.K. financial system is resilient," he added.
Results have sparked a global markets sell-off. London stock futures are trading 7 percent lower and stock futures in the U.S. are down 2 percent. The pound is dropping sharply against all major currencies, and is currently trading at 1.38 against the dollar. Oil is down 4 percent.
Gold -- one asset investors turn to in the times of uncertainty -- is up.
British Foreign Minister Hammond said Britain's voice in Europe will be greatly diminished and the events would "change course of British history with huge consequences."
Italy's Finance Minister Pier Carlo Padoan acknowledged the risk of a domino effect following the vote. Indeed, Britain's decision has emboldened anti-Europe parties across the continent.
The far-right Dutch politician Geert Wilders congratulated the U.K. on its decision, and called for a Dutch referendum on EU membership.
"We want be in charge of our own country, our own money, our own borders, and our own immigration policy," he was quoted as saying in a statement on his website.
"If I become prime minister, there will be a referendum in the Netherlands on leaving the European Union as well. Let the Dutch people decide," he said.
Marine Le Pen, the leader of France's nationalist Front National party, also congratulated the Brexit side. Her party has suggested the French would also hold an "out" referendum if she assumed the presidency. France is holding presidential elections next year.
Breakup of the union?
Turnout in Scotland was 67 percent with voters across the country voting overwhelmingly to stay in Europe. Now that the U.K. as a whole has determined to leave, many north of the border feel this would be a catalyst for another Scottish referendum, allowing the country to secede from the U.K.
The pro-independence Sinn Fein party in Northern Ireland also called for an Irish unity referendum -- taking Northern Ireland out of the U.K. -- in the wake of the Brexit vote.
"Scotland has delivered a strong, unequivocal vote to remain in the EU, and I welcome that endorsement of our European status," Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said in a statement.
"And while the overall result remains to be declared, the vote here makes clear that the people of Scotland see their future as part of the European Union."
Her predecessor, Alex Salmond, told British television that Cameron has no choice but to resign after losing the referendum.
"If this result holds, it's the end of Britain, just simple as that. ... Scotland is voting overwhelmingly to stay," historian Simon Schama said before the vote. "Bye-bye Great Britain, bye-bye United Kingdom. That will absolutely happen."AlertMe