Boris Johnson, tipped as Britain’s likely next prime minister after David Cameron’s decision to resign, was the most recognizable figure in the "Leave" campaign thanks to his cartoonish appearance.
But it was U.K. Independence Party leader Nigel Farage, whose message about Europe’s failure to tackle immigration resonated with disaffected blue-collar voters, who arguably sealed Friday’s result.
Helping along the way were at least two senior members of Cameron’s own government — and Britain’s opposition leader, Jeremy Corbyn. The socialist was supposed to be backing the "Remain" campaign but his lackluster performance has been blamed for failing to win the support of undecided voters.
So who are the men who ended Britain’s four-decade membership of the EU?
Six weeks ago, Johnson was completing his second term as mayor of London and preparing for life as an ordinary member of parliament. By Friday morning, he was the bookmakers’ favorite to replace Cameron as leader of Britain’s Conservative Party.
The folksy former commodities trader Farage was on the fringes of politics until a decade ago, and even after Friday’s result he has no elected role in British politics.
His U.K. Independence Party was founded to campaign for Britain’s withdrawal from Europe and secured 12.6 percent of the vote in the 2015 general election but only one member of parliament under Britain’s constituency-based first-past-the-post electoral system.
Farage failed in his bid to get elected to the House of Commons but remained the leader of the party and became a popular spokesman for immigration-weary Britons, particularly those who blamed the EU for the recent influx of migrant labor.
In contrast to Johnson, Farage could scarcely conceal his delight at the Brexit result and called for Friday to be renamed Independence Day.
"The EU is failing, the EU is dying," he told reporters. "I hope we've knocked the first brick out of the wall. I hope this is the first step towards a Europe of sovereign nations."
Farage is credited with shifting UKIP from a policy movement to a mainstream political party, but his emotive campaign posters blaming the EU for the migrant crisis were heavily criticized — and were even linked to the murder of pro-EU lawmaker Jo Cox.
His fondness for drinking pints of British beer on the campaign trail endeared him both to disaffected blue-collar voters in rust-belt zones of provincial England and to older, white-collar voters angry at the pork-barrel bureaucracy of Brussels.
A senior member of Cameron’s government, intellectual Gove brought much-needed gravitas to the "Leave" campaign line-up.
Like Johnson, he is a former journalist — his wife Sarah Vine is a columnist for the Daily Mail — but managed to steer clear of the more questionable campaign stunts.
His only wobble came when he claimed EU policies on commercial fishing had “destroyed” his father’s firm in Scotland. However, Ernest Gove contradicted that claim, telling The Guardian that there had been no such hardship and he had “just decided to call it a day.”
He went to Brussels in early February to renegotiate the terms of British membership in the EU and secured some concessions, including a cap on government welfare payments to migrants from other EU countries, but it was not enough to prevent voters from rejecting the EU altogether.
Often compared to Bernie Sanders, Corbyn’s left-leaning leadership and grassroots support gives him an important influence over the vote.
Once an anti-EU figure — decrying the organization as a capitalist club — he instead supported the "Remain" campaign, saying the EU offered protection of workers’ rights.
However, he was absent from many key campaign events and was accused Friday by members of his own party of failing to persuade traditional Labour voters of the dangers of UKIP’s anti-immigration message.
He now faces a vote of no confidence in the House of Commons, raising the possibility that both of Britain’s main political parties could be engaged in a leadership battle even as government officials deal with the fallout from the Brexit vote.
Alastair Jamieson is a London-based reporter, editor and homepage producer for NBC News.