britain referendum united kingdom london.jpg
Photograph: EPA/FACUNDO ARRIZABALAGA

On London's Parliament Square, underneath the impressive clocktower of Big Ben, the fears and anxieties churning in the stomachs of many pro-EU residents of the British capital were not immediately obvious on Friday.

Just one day after more than 17 million voters decided to end Britain's 43-year relationship with the European Union, the red double-decker buses with open tops were still lurching and braking their way through the city traffic.

Tourists snapped photographs in front of an old-fashioned telephone booth, and commuters hustled along the sidewalks, paper cups of to-go coffee in hand.

But behind the stately architecture, amid the rush to work, the city's residents are asking how something they held to be impossible was now a reality.

"I'm devastated," Anne-Marie Williams tells dpa. The outcome caused her physical pain, the 51-year-old says, putting her hand on her stomach.

Williams lamented that her children will have fewer opportunities in the future, that they won't be able to travel or study as freely.

"What for?" she asks.

The issue of social fairness - or the lack thereof - is seen by many Londoners as playing a role in the decision for a Brexit. For James Dickson, a construction firm employee, Britain's marginalized groups were a major force behind an exit from the 28-member bloc.

"If it revealed anything, it is that the UK is not at ease with itself," the 52-year-old project manager tells dpa. British society is deeply split, Dickson adds.

The referendum results in London - home to an international population and the world's largest financial centre - stood in stark contrast to most other areas in England, where majorities opted for leaving the EU.

According to the BBC, across all 33 boroughs of the British capital, nearly 60 per cent, or 2.26 million, voted in favour of remaining in the EU. The remain vote was more than 70 per cent in some areas, the broadcaster reported.

Overall, 52 per cent of British voters supported the Brexit, while 48 per cent wanted to remain in the EU.

For banker Lotfi Ladjemi, a now-certain Brexit means imminent financial losses. But that's not what shocks the 37-year-old the most.

"I thought being British meant being inclusive, liberal and generous," Ladjemi tells dpa. People have been mislead and manipulated, he says, adding that it seemed as if the country used the migration issue to make a wide-reaching decision with consequences that many do not comprehend.

"I feel less proud being British today," Ladjemi says.

Despite having lived a decade in Britain, Mario Peleanu says he never felt British. Sitting on a wall ledge near Scotland Yard headquarters, the 45-year-old Romanian smokes a cigarette and stares straight ahead.

Peleanu, a carpenter, says he has a settlement permit and does not worry about being forced to leave Britain. But since learning of the referendum results, he feels less welcome in Britain, which has become homeland of his children.

"What will be next? Does Europe fall apart?" he asks.

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