By Bill Parry
Global financial markets were rocked early Friday with news that British voters have chosen to leave the European Union.
The shocking 52-to-48 percent vote in favor of the so-called Brexit drove the pound down nearly 10 percent to its lowest level since 1985 and London’s FTSE 100 fell 10.7 percent, leading Prime Minister David Cameron, who campaigned to remain in the EU, to announce that he would resign.
In the United States stocks nosedived with the Dow Jones falling 402 points before noon as the S&P 500 tumbled 2.4 percent while the Nasdaq composite declined 2.8 percent.
President Barack Obama sought to calm tension by reaffirming the nation’s “special relationship” with Great Britain. “The people of the United Kingdom have spoken, and we respect their decision,” he said in a statement.
The president had urged British voters to remain in the EU during his trip to London in April. Obama raised eyebrows on both sides of the Atlantic when he warned that the U.K. would go to the “back of the queue” in any new trade deals should the country vote to leave the EU.
The timetable for the withdrawal is unclear, but it is expected to take at least two years, experts say.
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr