British Prime Minister David Cameron has announced he will step down by October after Britons voted in the ‘Brexit’ referendum to leave the European Union.
In a statement to reporters outside his Downing Street office, Cameron said, “I do not think it would be right for me to be the captain that steers our country to its next destination”.
Although he did not specify a timeline for his exit, Cameron indicated that he would stay for the next three months until a new prime minister is in place by the start the Conservative party conference in October.
Cameron was the helm of the remain camp in the referendum, and had strongly advocated against the UK leaving the union and had said that the country needed to be part of a union with other countries with similar values for the sake of its security and in order to wield influence. He faced opposition from his own party, with justice secretary Michael Gove backing Britain leaving the union and scores of other Conservative MPs also supporting the Brexit.
In a contest that went down to the wire, the leave camp emerged victorious with a 51.9% of the vote.
“The will of the British people will be respected”
Cameron spoke to reporters outside 10 Downing Street and assured the public that the UK will now pursue the plan to exit the EU. He said the will of the British people was “an instruction that must be delivered”.
Announcing his resignation, he said, “This [choice to exit the EU] will require strong, determined and committed leadership… I am very proud to have been prime minister of this country for six years. I have held nothing back…I will do everything I can as prime minister to steady the ship over the coming years and months but I do not think it would be right for me 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’s in the national interests to have a period of stability and then the new leadership required”.
Although shocking in some ways, Cameron’s resignation is not entirely surprising. Given the divide within his own party over the Brexit and his staunch support of remaining in the union, the result means his position as leader was now likely untenable. If he stayed on as prime minister, he would have, in all likelihood, faced a leadership challenge.
Next prime minister: Boris Johnson?
Johnson, the former London mayor and Conservative Party MP, campaigned for Britain to exit the EU. He is now the leading candidate to succeed Cameron. Although he had previously said he wants the party to unite behind Cameron after the referendum no matter what the result, Johnson targeted the prime minister by often belittling the arguments he made for staying in the EU.
Other possible candidates to replace Cameron include chancellor of the exchequer George Osborne, home secretary Theresa May and justice secretary Michael Gove. But bookmaker PaddyPower gives Johnson the best odds of succeeding becoming Britain’s next prime minister.