The referendum vote for Britain to leave the European Union was a political earthquake for the country and its aftershocks were felt in Tauranga.

Last night, Britain voted to leave the EU with 51.9 per cent backing Brexit and 48.1 per cent voting to remain a member.

British Prime Minister David Cameron announced he would step down following the Brexit vote, saying a new Conservative leader would take his place by October.

The Bay of Plenty Times Weekend spoke to expats living in Tauranga and, like the close vote in the UK, response to the Brexit verdict was split.


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William Kehoe, an expat from Surrey, near London, said he was glad the Leave campaign triumphed.

"We can take control of policies and don't have to listen to Europe tell us what we can and can't do, and pay millions of pounds a week for the privilege," he said.

SEE YA, EU: British Prime Minister David Cameron announced his resignation (right). PHOTOS/FILE, AP
SEE YA, EU: British Prime Minister David Cameron announced his resignation (right). PHOTOS/FILE, AP

Mr Kehoe, who has lived in New Zealand for the past 15 years, felt involved in the decision as his friends and family were still affected by the vote.

Like the country, his own family was divided on the issue with his mum and dad voting to leave and his younger brother voting to remain.

"The EU make a load of rules that we have to enforce so we can't take control of our own immigration, education, health," Mr Kehoe said.

His did not think his children, who could hold British passports, would be too greatly affected. If they wanted to travel around Europe they still would be able to, they just might have to use a different gate at the airport, he said.

Phil Mosscrop, from Devon in the southwest of England, was hugely disheartened, saying he thought he never wanted to go back to England after the result.

"I think effectively we've cut ourselves off horrifically and doomed the country to economic failure. It's a bit of a downer.

"The pound has already dropped massively in only a couple hours. If the initial reaction of the markets is anything to go by, there will be a recession very soon.

Leaving meant Mr Mosscrop would not be able to work or live wherever he wanted in Europe. He also thought there would be uncertainty around what would happen to his European friends who were working and living in the UK.

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He said for those who voted to leave, it was less a vote against the EU than a protest vote against the main political parties.

"I expect that fairly soon when the euphoria of a 'victory' has worn off and it becomes apparent how utterly isolated and financial ruined the country is, there will be a fair few with regrets," Mr Mosscrop said.

Phil Asquith, an expat from Liverpool, has lived in Tauranga for a year. He was not surprised by the result but he was disappointed.

"I voted to stay in, but I think the way things have been played out, especially in the media, leaving looked more and more likely.

"I think it's a bit shame."

He said there was no clear idea of what would happen next but thought it was not a sound economic platform to be on.

Mr Asquith thought it had been an "inflammatory" campaign, especially from the Leave party, and the public might not have been given the best information to make an informed decision.

"But it's not an overnight change, it will take two or three years [to see what the effect is]."

Bay of Plenty National Party MP Todd Muller said whatever happened in the future, it was an "extraordinary" result.

He thought there would be minimal effect for now, as the UK would still buy New Zealand exports tomorrow as they did yesterday.

"I think a lot of questions about what will happen are yet to really roll through, we don't want to jump to conclusions about anything."

Mr Muller said 40 years ago New Zealand provided the lion's share of UK's food imports while now it sent about 3 per cent of exports.

He was unsure if Brexit might open up more exporting opportunities but he "backed our exporters to find opportunities".

Kiwifruit grower and former president of New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers Inc Neil Trebilco said the biggest concern of Brexit for the industry would be if it impeded work going on for free-trade agreements with Europe.

"We would be concerned if the free-trade agreements were slowed down," he said. He said they did sell kiwifruit in Europe and the UK, but it was unclear if Brexit would affect that trade.

New Zealand First MP Winston Peters - a supporter of Brexit - was in Tauranga last night for a public meeting in Matua, at which he spoke about the result.

Mr Peters said it was a massive wake-up call for the British establishment and high-placed bureaucracy.

"It's not just a wake-up call for the UK, or the EU, but to democracies everywhere."

He said the trigger point which focused voters was the effect of mass immigration on their country.