Date with history: Britain votes to leave Europe

June 23, 2016: The Brexit victory was clear, but where does it leave the UK now? asks Philip Rycroft

The World Today
2 minute READ

Philip Rycroft

Permanent Secretary, UK Department for Exiting the European Union (2017-2019)

As head of the UK Governance Group in the Cabinet Office with responsibility for the constitution, my focus on the night of the referendum to leave or remain in the European Union was on the proper conduct of the democratic process – highly successful, as it turned out. 

But, as the early results came in, that sense of satisfaction in a professional job well done to deliver an important democratic event was overshadowed by the dawning realization of the challenges that would lie ahead. 

Notoriously, the prime minister, David Cameron, had forbidden any contingency planning for a ‘leave’ outcome. Beyond some rough thinking about how to navigate the very early days, there was simply no roadmap to exit. More fundamentally, there was absolutely no political consensus, not least within the governing party, about what form Brexit might take.

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