The hard-fought campaign leading up to the vote pitted centrist politicians, who argued for the stability and economic benefits of remaining in the EU, against advocates of greater national sovereignty like Nigel Farage, whose populist UKIP Party employed disturbing anti-immigrant rhetoric in support of their cause. From The New York Times:
Despite opinion polls ahead of the referendum on Thursday that showed either side in a position to win, the outcome nonetheless stunned much of Britain, Europe and the trans-Atlantic alliance, highlighting the power of anti-elite, populist and nationalist sentiment at a time of economic and cultural dislocation.
“Dare to dream that the dawn is breaking on an independent United Kingdom,” Nigel Farage, the leader of the U.K. Independence Party, one of the primary forces behind the push for a referendum on leaving the European Union, told cheering supporters just after 4 a.m.
Britain will become the first country to leave the 28-member bloc, which has been increasingly weighed down by its failures to deal fully with a succession of crises, from the financial collapse of 2008 to a resurgent Russia and the massive influx of migrants last year.
“He said he will respect the view of the British people and his job as prime minister is to implement the decision the British people have made,” Tory MP Brandon Lewis told Radio Norfolk, according to the BBC. “The country wanted to have a say on this and we’ll see a prime minister and a government now delivering on that decision.”