In the early hours of this morning, it became clear that Britain – on an astonishing turnout of 72% – had voted to leave the EU. As someone who has made the case for Britain to leave, I feel enormously proud and confident in the future. We have a golden opportunity for democratic renewal, to shape our own destiny, rediscover our self-confidence, and be a truly global outward-looking nation in the world. I’m optimistic for Britain as never before, and I’m confident we have the resourcefulness and resolve to go from strength to strength.
I want to pay tribute to David Cameron, the Prime Minister, who gave Britain this referendum and opportunity. I believe he has been an absolutely outstanding Prime Minister. In truth, as I made clear before the vote, I wanted him to stay on. I am disappointed he has stepped down, but of course I understand and respect his decision.
I see three immediate challenges, none of which need weigh us down or eclipse the opportunities that lie ahead. First, we need to understand that this referendum was a direction from the British people that needs to be recognised, respected, and delivered. On all sides of this debate, we pledged to accept the democratic verdict of the people. There can be no reneging on that.
Second, as the PM and Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, have already started to do, we need to provide some stability and calm. The vote for independence opens the door to a world of brighter opportunities. But, we can take the time and exercise the care to make the right decisions for Britain.
Third, we need to acknowledge that the vote in favour of leaving the EU – 52% against 48% – leaves a large part of the UK anxious and concerned about what lies ahead. So, we need to proceed with resolve, but also humility and sensitivity, and work towards building a unity of purpose.
I will be personally committed to those goals over the next few months and indeed years. There will be challenges ahead, but none that are insurmountable. This is a new beginning for Britain, as we take back mastery over our own destiny – and go from strength to strength.