Great Britain voted Thursday to leave the European Union, leaving members of Parliament to navigate uncharted waters in negotiating how and when that dramatic, historic split will take effect.
The nation has been part of the EU for 49 years, but early Friday morning, Nigel Farage, the leader of the U.K. Independence Party, one of the primary forces behind the push for the nationwide referendum, declared it “Independence Day” for Great Britain.
Sky News projected the “out” vote just before midnight Eastern time or about 6 a.m. London Time.
The vote was markedly different between cities and rural areas, with city voters favoring remaining in the EU and rural voters supporting an exit.
When the race was called, the percentage vote was nearly 52 percent for leaving, with just over 48 percent favoring remaining.
Leave – 17,410,742 (51.9%)
Remain – 16,141,241 (48.1%)
All districts reporting
England and Wales voted for the exit, with Scotland voting to remain.
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Leave was winning by nearly a million votes hours before the election results were officially announced. More than 26 million votes were cast overall.
Immigration policies set by the EU were a major concern of those favoring independence.
U.S. investors on Thursday acted as if British voters were choosing to stay in the European Union, sending stocks hurtling upward by 230 points to more than 18,000 on Dow Jones, but the unexpected turnaround is expected to be reflected in markets Friday.
In an April visit to the U.K., President Obama told Britons they should vote to stay.
“The United States wants a strong United Kingdom as a partner. And the United Kingdom is at its best when it’s helping to lead a strong Europe,” he said.
Obama said if the vote is to leave, American efforts will continue to focus on a trade deal with the EU, and Britain then would drop to the back of the line. He said a deal is “not going to happen anytime soon,” assuming a vote to leave.
However, State Department spokesman John Kirby tempered those comments, with, “We don’t anticipate anything changing the special relationship that we have with the U.K.”