What happens now is pretty unclear. The value of the pound has taken a nosedive reflecting the enormous amounts of uncertainty regarding what will happen next.
This is the first time any country has left the European Union and the rules for exit – contained in Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon – are actually quite brief.
David Cameron has said he will leave the task of triggering Article 50 to his successor.
But what is Article 50? Essentially it’s the UK’s official declaration to the EU that it wants to leave.
This involves a two-year negotiation period, after which the treaties and rules of membership no longer apply to the UK, reports the Telegraph.
The terms of the exit will be negotiated by all 27 of the remaining member states and each one will be able to veto those terms.
There will be two large negotiating teams. The EU side and the UK side. The EU side is likely to be headed by one of the current European Commissioners, however it is unclear who will lead the UK side.
The simplest – although by no means easy – part of the process will be to extract Britain from the EU.
The difficult – and probably most important part of the process – is agreeing to a new trading relationship which will cover taxes, tariffs, movement of labour, visa provisions, and a whole heap of other delicate negotiations.
Basically, nothing official can happen until Britain formally activates Article 50 and requests to leave the EU.