On Thursday, the British public voted to leave the European Union, a shocking result that flew in the face of betting markets and professional prediction firms.
On each side of the discussion around the British exit, or Brexit, stood a wide array of politicians, celebrities and other public figures, in the U.K. and abroad. Here are some of those who ended up victorious in the Brexit vote.
Boris Johnson, MP and ex-mayor of London
Even before the referendum date was announced, London’s then-Mayor Boris Johnson had come out for leaving the EU. “I want a better deal for the people of this country, to save them money and to take back control,” the famously disheveled politician said, highlighting the theme of sovereignty central to Brexit advocates.
Clearly angling to succeed Cameron as leader of the Conservatives, Johnson emerged as one of the most popular and eloquent proponents of leaving the EU. “Now is the time to believe in ourselves, and in what Britain can do, and to remember that we always do best when we believe in ourselves,” Johnson wrote days before the referendum. “I believe that change will be overwhelmingly positive.”
Nigel Farage, leader of the U.K. Independence Party
Most Brexit proponents spent just a few months pushing for the U.K. to leave Europe. Nigel Farage, co-founder and head of the right-wing U.K. Independence Party, has devoted more than two decades to the cause.
Farage and UKIP made a central issue of the EU’s migration policies, which allows free movement across borders, calling the referendum a fight “to take our country back.” But as anti-immigration rhetoric escalated, Farage took heat over his party’s messaging. The criticism peaked last week, when Farage drew accusations of racism after posing with a billboard depicting a long procession of migrants, titled “BREAKING POINT.”
“Let June the 23rd go down in our history as our independence day,” Farage announced as the result became clear early Friday morning.
Tim Martin, pub mogul
Pubgoers are no strangers to politics. But for patrons of the J.D. Wetherspoon chain of drinking establishments, the EU referendum made the pub into a political battleground, with founder and chairman Tim Martin using his 954 locations to ferment excitement for the "leave" camp.
In addition to pints of ale, Martin’s pubs served up a steady stream pro-Brexit literature in Wetherspoon News, a magazine trumpeting his views. “Some people are opinion formers,” Martin told the Financial Times. “My theory is that Wetherspoon will decide the outcome of the referendum.”
Marine Le Pen, French right-wing leader
The EU referendum energized Euroskeptics across the continent, perhaps none more so than the leader of France’s right-wing National Front, Marine Le Pen. A harsh critic of the EU and its immigration policy, Le Pen said a British vote to leave “will prove that it is possible to live outside the European Union. Either we are free or we are not.”
But Le Pen, who will run for president of France again next year, found few friends in Britain. Farage repudiated Le Pen’s party as racist and anti-Semitic. When Le Pen floated a visit to the U.K., an official in the Vote Leave campaign argued vociferously against allying with her, labeling Le Pen’s rhetoric “divisive and inflammatory.” She eventually scuttled her plan to visit, fearing a boomerang effect on the vote. But she tweeted: "If I were a British citizen, I would vote for the Brexit."
— Marine Le Pen (@MLP_officiel) June 21, 2016
Donald Trump, U.S presidential candidate
Though the brash real estate tycoon at times had trouble remembering precisely what Brexit was, he came out for Britain parting with Europe. “I would personally be more inclined to leave, for a lot of reasons like having a lot less bureaucracy,” Trump told the Sunday Times of London.
The Republican presidential candidate, who has promised to build a wall on the Mexican border and ban Muslims from entering the U.S., said the buildup of refugees in the EU was a “horrible thing” for Britain. “A lot of that was pushed by the EU,” Trump said.
Europe and the U.S. must immediately stop taking in people from Syria. This will be the destruction of civilization as we know it! So sad!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 24, 2016
Incidentally, Trump departed for Scotland as the vote was being tallied in order to preside over the opening of a golf course. “Leaving now for a one night trip to Scotland in order to be at the Grand Opening of my great Turnberry Resort,” he tweeted. “Will be back on Sat. night!”