Brexit has become a reality as the UK has voted to leave the European Union, with 52% of the British electorate voting to exit the EU.

Yesterday, June 23,  the UK went to the polls to decide whether its future would lie within the EU or outside of it and counting began after voting closed at 10pm last night.

A breakdown of the votes shows that Northern Ireland voted to remain by 55.5% and Scotland also voted to remain, by 62%. Both England and Wales voted to leave.

Based on a confirmed electorate of 46,500,001 turnout at the referendum was 72.2%, according to the UK's Electoral Commission.

The final opinion poll, compiled by Populus, ahead of the referendum had suggested that the remain vote might just edge out the leave side, however this did not come to fruition. Previous polls had called that the vote was just too close to call.

In response to the victory for the Leave campaigners, Sinn Fein's National Chairman Declan Kearney has said that the British government has forfeited any mandate to represent economic or political interests of people in Northern Ireland.

Kearney said that there is now a situation where the North is going to be dragged out on the tails of a vote in England.

"Sinn Fein will now press our demand, our long-standing demand, for a border poll," he said.

Meanwhile, Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said that it was clear that the Scottish people saw their futures as part of the EU, following a 62% remain vote in the country.

What happens next

A statement from the Irish Government this morning said that the result of the referendum has "very significant implications for Ireland".

The Government is to meet later this morning to reflect on the result and the Taoiseach is to make a public statement.

Now that the UK has voted to leave the EU, it is understood that the President of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz will meet the Conference of Presidents later this morning.

It is expected that they will demand for Article 50 to be called for straight away, allowing for Britain's exit negotiations to begin.

Under Article 50, the UK must give a minimum period of two year’s notice of its intention to leave the EU and a more extended time period of five or even 10 years might well be required to facilitate an orderly exit.

Relationship with Ireland

Ireland's relationship with the UK is unique, as we share a land border in the form of Northern Ireland with the UK.

The UK Prime Minister, David Cameron (who has announced that he is to resign later this year), last week said that in the event of a Brexit, there will be new border controls between the North and the south.

Specific issues for Ireland and the UK would need to be addressed, including the volumes of milk that come into Ireland for manufacturing milk. That milk could not be processed into a product that could carry a ‘produce of EU’ label.

Furthermore, Ireland is reliant on the UK for our agri-food exports. In 2015, Bord Bia figures show that 30% of Ireland’s dairy exports went to the UK which is equivalent to roughly €1 billion.

On the beef front, 52% of our total exports went in the UKs direction, which Bord Bia valued at €1.1 billion.

Now that the UK has decided to leave the EU, Ireland's future trading relationship with the UK will need to be examined as there is no provision for negotiation of a special Ireland-UK trading relationship.