David Cameron last night fell on his sword, announcing there will be a staged exit from Number 10 and a new prime minister by October after he failed to keep Britain in the European Union.

He will go down in history as the prime minister who took Britain out of the EU despite so vociferously campaigning for the exact opposite.

Cameron promised to try to "steady the ship" over the next months.

"I do not think it would be right for me to try to be the captain that steers our country to its next destination," he said outside his Downing Street residence in London.

Advertisement

He said his successor should trigger the formal process for Britain to leave the European Union.

Former London Mayor Boris Johnson's fortunes have soared dramatically as the figurehead of Vote Leave.

He has neatly positioned himself to become a main player in any ensuing Conservative leadership challenge. Enter, Prime Minister Boris.

Johnson said Britons "have decided that it is time to vote to take back control from an EU that has become too remote, too opaque and not accountable enough to the people it is meant to serve".

Jeremy Corbyn's days as Labour leader may also be limited. He has been roundly criticised for not shouting loud enough about why Britain needed to remain an EU member. With 60 or 70 per cent of Labour members thought to be pro-EU, MPs will pile on the pressure for him to resign. It may be the moment that many of his opponents have been waiting for.

Meanwhile, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said Scotland would "take all possible steps" to remain part of EU and would prepare legislation for a possible second referendum on independence.

It does not take much effort to work out who could be the main contenders to the Tories' top job.

While Justice Minister Michael Gove has said it does not interest him, it is not uncommon for politicians to change their minds. He is well-respected and managed to rise above personal attacks during the campaign, but some in the party worry that he is not "normal" enough.

Johnson, the other prominent eurosceptic, positioned himself well as a figurehead for the Brexit campaign and consistently polls well with Conservative members.

George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, has slipped down the rankings in recent months though, while other Remain campaigners such as Theresa May and Sajid Javid do not perform well in polls.

Britain has voted clearly in favour of leaving the EU. Business Editor at Large Liam Dann speaks to Labour MP David Shearer and Auckland University Professor Jennifer Curtin about what happens next.