How Britons feel about Brexit

A demonstrator draped in an EU flag sits on floor during a protest against the outcome of the UK's June 23 referendum on the European Union in central London on June 25, 2016.

Story highlights

  • Britain voted to leave the European Union in a referendum on Thursday

(CNN)Britain voted to leave the European Union in a referendum on Thursday. The decision prompted British Prime Minister David Cameron to announce his intention to resign and sent share prices tumbling. The decision is historic, but how do people in the UK feel? CNN asked a group of commentators, politicians and historians in the UK for their personal take on what it all means. The views expressed are their own.

Stanley: I'm deliriously happy

Timothy Stanley
I am deliriously happy about Britain voting to Leave. It's being pitched as many things: a vote against immigration, elitism or globalization. But at its heart it was about democracy. The EU had undermined our sovereignty and threatened to drag us into a federal superstate. Britain wanted no more of it.
    Given that we were threatened with economic Armageddon if we voted to Leave -- by the President of the USA no less -- it's particularly thrilling that so many people chose risk and freedom over the promise of stability. In New Hampshire they say: "live free or die." Perhaps we've brought the American revolution home.
    Timothy Stanley is a historian and columnist for Britain's Daily Telegraph.

    Woolf: Our sense of self is depleted

    Sheila Woolf
    My parents went through World War II and felt positive about the postwar moves toward European unity: they hoped their children would not have to face what they had faced. On Thursday, I voted Remain -- for the sake of our young people, who need unity now more than at any time since the 1930s, as nationalist tendencies arise throughout Europe.
    Brexit makes me despair: lies and scaremongering combined with economic and political half-truths have led to this. Our economy and our position on the world stage are both now in tatters. But more fundamentally, our sense of self is depleted, and the opportunities available to the younger generation are fractured. Young and old, we are in shock.
    Sheila Woolf is a Warwickshire-based historian and author and former school teacher.

    Singh: A political earthquake

    Gurharpal Singh
    Two days after the Brexit vote and it is still difficult to come to terms with the magnitude of the political earthquake that has hit Britain. In retrospect, it will rank in the same league as 1066, the English civil war, American independence, and India's decolonization.
    Britain has turned against history and into itself, which might presage the breakup of the country. As Enoch Powell, the veteran anti-EU campaigner, said almost 43 years ago: "Independence, the freedom of a self-governing nation, is in my estimation the highest political good, for which any disadvantage, if need be, and any sacrifice are a cheap price." The real question is whether the politicians and the voters who have sleepwalked into a Brexit are willing to pay this price.
    Prof. Gurharpal Singh is Dean of Arts and Humanities at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.

    Smith: Demagoguery triumphs over reason

    Chris Smith
    The result of the EU referendum is a disaster for the UK in so many ways -- economically, socially, culturally, and in terms of what it signifies for Britain's relationship with the world. We've turned from being an outward-facing, sharing, partnering country to being isolated and insular. And worse than that, we've demonstrated that demagoguery can triumph over reason and common sense. I fervently hope the same thing won't happen in America in November.
    Lord Chris Smith of Finsbury is a member of Britain's House of Lords and a former secretary of state for culture and media under a Labour government.

    Cook: Time to roll up our sleeves

    Simon Cook
    I knew something was up when I was woken up by my phone buzzing -- friends busily swapping news and gossip as the vote count got under way. I had to get up and watch -- it's not every day you see the direction of the country change. And change it certainly has.
    I think it's a brave choice -- a hopeful leap into the unknown and definitely the harder path to take. But maybe that's the British way.
    We can celebrate, we can complain, we can worry -- and then we roll our sleeves up and make this work. It's what we do.
    Simon Cook is the leader of Canterbury City Council.

    Arora: Political participation the winner

    Bela Arora
    The result of the EU Referendum has left the UK pondering the UK-EU relationship, but also the fate of the relationship between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The result has determined our future beyond our borders, but also within our borders.
    Ultimately, whether people agree or disagree with the outcome, I feel that the result has restored my view on public participation in politics. For so many years, analysts and scholars alike have sought to explain the apparent voter apathy. The unprecedented levels of voter turnout for the EU Referendum has blown the voter apathy myth right out of the water and proven that people will engage in politics that they feel affects them. Seventy-five percent of 18-24 year-olds voted to remain in the EU, according to polling. They may feel devastated by this outcome, but they are the very people who will be amongst the next generation of leaders that can shape our relationship with the EU and beyond.
    Bela Arora is a senior lecturer in Global Governance at the University of South Wales/Prifysgol De Cymru.

    Jones: History won't judge us kindly

    Dan Jones
    The pollsters got it wrong. The bookies got it wrong. And if you believe my liberal friends wailing on social media (make that about 95% of them) the electorate got it wrong too, and will rue the day, etc etc. But here we are. Democracy has prevailed.
    Placed in historical context, Brexit feels like a horrible lurch into the dark for Great Britain, a nation which in the past century has been the last defender of European peace and stability, not the first to run away. No more. Having grown weary of our neighbors, we have set fire to the garden fence. If the whole street burns down, so be it.
    Can wounds ever heal in divided UK?