Emotional David Cameron resigns after Britain votes to leave the EU
Watch: Prime Minister’s voice cracked at the end of his statement outside Downing Street.
David Cameron has shocked his cabinet colleagues by announcing that he is stepping down as prime minister.
After losing his referendum on European Union membership, the prime minister said it was not right for him "to be the captain of the ship"
He added that there should be a new prime minister in place by the start of the Conservative Party conference in October.
Cameron had urged the country to vote Remain, but Leave won by 52% to 48%. The referendum turnout was 71.8% - with more than 30 million people voting - the highest turnout at a UK-wide vote since 1992.
Cameron said: "I was absolutely clear about my belief that Britain is stronger, safer and better off inside the European Union. And I made clear the referendum was about this and this alone, not the future of any single politician, including myself. But the British people have made a very clear decision to take a different path and as such I think the country requires fresh leadership to take it in this direction.
"I will do everything I can as prime minister to steady the ship over the coming weeks and months. But I do not think it would be right for me to try to be the captain that steers our country to its next destination.
"This is not a decision I have taken lightly. But I do believe it’s in the national interest to have a period of stability and then the new leadership required.
"There is no need for a precise timetable today. But in my view we should aim to have a new prime minister in place by the start of the Conservative party conference in October.
Cameron's voice cracked as he concluded his statement: "I’ve said before that Britain can survive outside the EU and indeed that we could find a way, now the decision has been made to leave we need to find the best way.
"I will do everything I can to help – I love this country, and I feel honoured to have served it and I will do everything I can in future to help this great country succeed.”
Speaking immediately afterwards, a host of senior Conservatives including defence secretary Michael Fallon and Northern Ireland secretary Theresa Villers said they had not expected the prime minister to take such drastic action.
Chris Grayling, one of the Conservative ministers campaigning against the prime minister, also said he was disappointed by the news.
"I very much regret he has taken the decision he has because I think he could have played a really important role in what comes next. But we will now have to move on," he insisted.
Conservative 1922 Committee chair Graham Brady also said it was a "remarkable outcome" and had come as "quite a surprise" to him.
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