Putting this to one side for a moment I thought it would be useful to provide some clarity on the procedure of a UK withdrawal and what is supposed to happen next.
The official process of leaving is as follows: the Prime Minister would invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty triggering two year negotiations between the remaining 27 EU members, to determine the terms of the UK exit. In reality, it is likely to take longer than that. The Leave campaign said in the run-up to the referendum that they expect an exit in 2019 and until then the UK will have to abide by all EU laws and regulations.
His resignation has resulted in a leadership election for October and potentially delayed invoking Article 50, pushing the two year deadline further down the road.
Note that the referendum result isn’t legally binding and Parliament may not ratify the decision to exit the EU, in favour of further renegotiations and a possible second referendum. However, this course of action would be extremely unpopular with the electorate.
Once invoked, Article 50 is irreversible. The remaining 27 members will negotiate the exit terms, without the UK’s involvement. These negotiations will encompass all aspects of EU membership and have a two year deadline. If an exit deal hasn’t been reached within this period, then all EU treaties automatically cease to apply to the UK, and membership ends immediately. The deadline can be extended by a unanimous vote by all member countries. It is unlikely that two years is sufficient to complete these negotiations. When Greenland left the EEC in the 1980s it took three years to negotiate the terms of its exit. The UK’s exit would be much more complex. There will be a fine line for the UK to navigate through the negotiations, keeping both UK voters and the other EU member nations happy.
Britain’s exit also raises internal issues, particularly with regard to Scotland, which voted to remain in the EU. The SNP has been clear that this exact scenario constitutes a significant fundamental change to Scotland’s position in the UK, allowing a second referendum on Scottish Independence to take place. This may not happen in the short term, as the SNP is unlikely to hold another referendum until they are sure that they can win it. However expect more tensions between the Scottish Parliament and Westminster.
One certainty is the amount of uncertainty the result creates, everyone is watching closely to see how matters unfold.