Published: Friday, June 24, 2016 @ 8:22 AM
Updated: Friday, June 24, 2016 @ 9:25 AM
By: Cox Media Group National Content Desk
After months of contentious debate, Britain voted Thursday to leave the European Union in a historic referendum dubbed "Brexit." Here are some things to know:
Vote closely divided
The vote was a close one, according to results from the BBC. Of the 33.5 million ballots cast, only 1 million votes separated the two sides.
With voter turnout around 72 percent, 52 percent of Britons voted against staying in the EU. However, a majority of voters in Scotland, Northern Ireland and England's cities voted against leaving the 28-member union.
Prime Minister David Cameron resigns
Cameron, who led the campaign to keep the United Kingdom in the EU, announced his plans to step down as prime minister in the wake of Thursday's vote.
"I will do everything I can as prime minister to steady the ship over the coming weeks and months, but I do not think it would be right for me to try to be the captain that steers the country to its next destination," he said Friday in a speech outside his Downing Street office.
"We should aim to have a new prime minister in place by the start of the Conservative Party conference in October," he said.
Cameron became prime minister in 2010.
Pound plunges, global markets tumble
Financial markets took a dive after news of Britain's exit from the EU broke. At its lowest point, the British pound fell by 15 cents to $1.33 against the dollar – its lowest level since 1985, according to The Guardian.
"This is the biggest one-day plunge ever," the newspaper reported. "It even dwarfs the sterling crash on Black Wednesday in 1992, when Britain left the ERM (European Exchange Rate Mechanism)."
Financial markets plummeted in the aftermath. Japan's Nikkei index closed down 8 percent.
"The Nikkei's drop was its steepest since March 2011, when threats of a nuclear catastrophe following a powerful earthquake and tsunami had sent financial markets reeling," Reuters reported.
The FTSE 100 index fell 8 percent after opening in London, according to the BBC.
To leave the EU, Britain will have to invoke Article 50 of the 2009 Lisbon Treaty, which sets out the process for leaving. Cameron said Friday that he would leave that task to his successor.
Once Article 50 is triggered, negotiations for Britain's exit will begin. The negotiations are expected to take no more than two years.
Technically, the vote could be ignored altogether, although Cameron emphasized the need to take the referendum's results seriously.
"The will of the British people is an instruction that must be delivered," he said. "It was not a decision that was taken lightly, not least because so many things were said by so many different organizations about the significance of this decision. So there can be no doubt about the result."
Social media erupts with supporters, naysayers
Britons took to social media to express frustration and joy over the results of Thursday's vote. World leaders and pundits also weighed in on the historic vote.