UK Independence Party (UKIP) leader Nigel Farage, left, talks with EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker before a plenary session at the EU headquarters in Brussels on Tuesday, June 28. European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker called on Prime Minister David Cameron to clarify when Britain intends to leave the EU, saying there can be no negotiation on future ties before London formally applies to exit.
JOHN THYS/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
UK Independence Party (UKIP) leader Nigel Farage, left, talks with EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker before a plenary session at the EU headquarters in Brussels on Tuesday, June 28. European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker called on Prime Minister David Cameron to clarify when Britain intends to leave the EU, saying there can be no negotiation on future ties before London formally applies to exit.
Now playing
03:27
Farage EU speech: European Parliament needs to grow up
Photo Illustration: Getty Images/CNN
Now playing
03:38
Here's what you need to know about Brexit
Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May leaves 10 Downing Street in London on March 25, 2019. - British Prime Minister Theresa May chaired a meeting of her cabinet amid reports of an attempted coup by colleagues over her handling of Brexit. (Photo by Isabel Infantes / AFP)        (Photo credit should read ISABEL INFANTES/AFP/Getty Images)
ISABEL INFANTES/AFP/Getty Images
Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May leaves 10 Downing Street in London on March 25, 2019. - British Prime Minister Theresa May chaired a meeting of her cabinet amid reports of an attempted coup by colleagues over her handling of Brexit. (Photo by Isabel Infantes / AFP) (Photo credit should read ISABEL INFANTES/AFP/Getty Images)
Now playing
01:44
Theresa May to resign when Brexit is done
Pro-EU demonstrators wave an mixed EU and Union flag as they protest against Brexit, outside of the Houses of Parliament in central London on June 11, 2018. - After a rollercoaster week of Brexit rows within her government and with Brussels, British Prime Minister Theresa May will on Tuesday seek to avoid another setback in a long-awaited showdown with parliament. MPs in the House of Commons will vote on a string of amendments to a key piece of Brexit legislation that could force the government's hand in the negotiations with the European Union. (Photo by Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS / AFP)        (Photo credit should read DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images)
DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
Pro-EU demonstrators wave an mixed EU and Union flag as they protest against Brexit, outside of the Houses of Parliament in central London on June 11, 2018. - After a rollercoaster week of Brexit rows within her government and with Brussels, British Prime Minister Theresa May will on Tuesday seek to avoid another setback in a long-awaited showdown with parliament. MPs in the House of Commons will vote on a string of amendments to a key piece of Brexit legislation that could force the government's hand in the negotiations with the European Union. (Photo by Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS / AFP) (Photo credit should read DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images)
Now playing
01:07
What's at stake if a Brexit deal falls through
Pedestrians waling through Waterloo Bridge with the skyline of the City of London in the background on October 27, 2016. 
Britain's economy won a double boost on October 27 on news of faster-than-expected growth following its vote for Brexit and a pledge by Nissan to build new car models in the UK. Gross domestic product expanded by 0.5 percent in the third quarter, official data showed.
 / AFP / Daniel Leal-Olivas        (Photo credit should read DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images)
DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images
Pedestrians waling through Waterloo Bridge with the skyline of the City of London in the background on October 27, 2016. Britain's economy won a double boost on October 27 on news of faster-than-expected growth following its vote for Brexit and a pledge by Nissan to build new car models in the UK. Gross domestic product expanded by 0.5 percent in the third quarter, official data showed. / AFP / Daniel Leal-Olivas (Photo credit should read DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images)
Now playing
02:13
Why Brexit uncertainty means companies plan for the worst
Getty Images
Now playing
03:45
What a fish can tell you about Brexit
Cyclists pass a sign calling for no border to be imposed between Ireland and Northern Ireland outside Newry, Northern Ireland, on November 14, 2018 near the Irish border. - British Prime Minister Theresa May defended her anguished divorce deal with the European Union before rowdy lawmakers on Wednesday before  trying to win the backing of her splintered cabinet with the so-called "Irish backstop" arrangement to guard against the imposition of a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland one of the contentious issues, according to reports. (Photo by Paul FAITH / AFP)        (Photo credit should read PAUL FAITH/AFP/Getty Images)
PAUL FAITH/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
Cyclists pass a sign calling for no border to be imposed between Ireland and Northern Ireland outside Newry, Northern Ireland, on November 14, 2018 near the Irish border. - British Prime Minister Theresa May defended her anguished divorce deal with the European Union before rowdy lawmakers on Wednesday before trying to win the backing of her splintered cabinet with the so-called "Irish backstop" arrangement to guard against the imposition of a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland one of the contentious issues, according to reports. (Photo by Paul FAITH / AFP) (Photo credit should read PAUL FAITH/AFP/Getty Images)
Now playing
02:06
Brexit: What is the Irish backstop?
CNN
Now playing
01:32
Why there is no easy path in the Brexit deal
EU supporters, calling on the government to give Britons a vote on the final Brexit deal, wave EU flags as they participate in the 'People's Vote' march in central London, Britain March 23, 2019. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls
Henry Nicholls/Reuters
EU supporters, calling on the government to give Britons a vote on the final Brexit deal, wave EU flags as they participate in the 'People's Vote' march in central London, Britain March 23, 2019. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls
Now playing
01:31
Massive crowds march against Brexit in London
Now playing
02:59
May puts the pressure on lawmakers in Brexit address
Parliament TV
Now playing
01:59
Parliament votes to seize control of Brexit process
Parliament TV
Now playing
02:12
Corbyn rips May, demands no confidence vote
parliamentlive.tv
Now playing
01:19
Theresa May's brexit deal suffers historic defeat
EBS
Now playing
02:32
How the EU negotiated its first-ever divorce
CNN
Now playing
01:24
Once pro-leave town feels Brexit uncertainty
Irish border drone footage
CNN
Irish border drone footage
Now playing
01:59
Why the Irish border is impacting Brexit

Story highlights

Senior Conservatives Boris Johnson and Michael Gove are senior "Leave" figures

But they've been out of the public eye, leaving UKIP's Nigel Farage to become the de-facto leader

(CNN) —  

It’s been a week since the British public went to the polls and set in motion one of the most traumatic periods in the country’s recent history.

By Friday lunchtime in London, Prime Minister David Cameron had announced his intention to step down after the majority of voters opted to end British membership of the European Union.

More galling for the pro-EU Cameron was the fact that many of the most prominent “Brexiteers” had come from his own ruling Conservative Party, chief among them the former Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, and Justice Minister, Michael Gove.

Where things stand 5 days on

Johnson, widely tipped to replace Cameron, even thanked the British people for “doing our job for us” at the ballot box. “It’s about the right of the people of this country to settle their own destiny,” he proclaimed at a press conference in the wake of the final results. “They have decided that it is time to vote to take back control.”

But by the following Thursday, Johnson had ducked out of the race to be the next Prime Minister of the UK.

Having outlined the demands of the role to a room full of journalists in London, Johnson announced: “I have concluded that that person cannot be me.”

Gove had campaigned closely with Johnson for a Brexit, but said he had decided to run himself after concluding that Johnson “cannot provide the leadership or build the team for the task ahead.”

He told reporters on Friday that Britain is “embarking on a new chapter and one that is in line with our best traditions,” adding that it can now “build a new, stronger and more positive relationship with our European neighbors based on free trade and friendly co-operation.”

But how that will happen remains to be seen.

Vanishing act

As the financial markets reeled over the prospect of a Brexit and EU leaders led by Germany’s Angela Merkel warned Britain could not pick and choose what it wanted from EU membership, the “Leave” campaign’s victorious leaders vanished quicker than they’d materialized – as if the result had been such a surprise to them that they’d overlooked the need to actually have a plan.

The only person left on stage to bang the Brexit drum was the perennially anti-EU Nigel Farage. Much derided as a xenophobic and controversial figure in British politics, the leader of the UK Independence Party (UKIP) appeared to have the biggest smile of all.

Asked how he would explain to Americans why Britain voted the way it did, Farage asked: “Imagine if you had free movement of people from Mexico? How would you feel? You wouldn’t like it.

Brexit: Romanians start adopt-a-Brit campaign

“What we’re doing in the UK … we’re re-asserting our democratic rights. And in terms of business and trade, we’ll go on trading,” he said during an interview with CNN Tuesday.

Happy to stick with the American theme, Farage even praised Presidential nominee Donald Trump – who also backed the leave vote – because he “dares to talk about the things that other people want to sweep under the carpet.

“But what Mr. Trump is doing in America is very different from what I’m trying to do. My problem in British politics is far greater than Donald Trump’s. We, literally, have lost our sovereignty, lost our borders, lost our ability to regulate.”

Parliamentary punchlines

Farage seems happy to take the limelight in the absence of his fellow Brexiteers in the Conservative Party – even if that means taking the battle directly to his EU foes alone.

In an extraordinary performance in the European parliament in Brussels on Tuesday, Farage took aim at his European colleagues during an emergency session called to debate Brexit.

Amid jeering from across the chamber, Farage declared, “you’re not laughing now!”

Why this British town backed Brexit

“Isn’t it funny? When I came here 17 years ago and I said that I wanted to lead a campaign go get Britain out of the European Union, you all laughed at me.”

After more heckling from EU lawmakers, Farage, now in his element and with a British flag dangling nearby, questioned whether any of them had ever worked outside of politics.

“I know that virtually none of you have never done a proper job in your lives, or worked in business, or worked in trade, or indeed ever created a job. But listen, just listen.”

This arch-eurosceptic appears to be the one laughing now, but it will quickly ring hollow if the millions of people in Britain that backed his cause feel short-changed.

Brexit’s broken promises: Health care, immigration and the economy