THE news that Wales and the UK voted to leave the European Union has been met with jubilation and dismay in equal measure.
Across Wales as a whole 51.7 per cent of voters backed Leave, closely mirroring the UK-wide result, which was 51.9 per cent to 48.1 in favour of leaving the EU.
Speaking this morning first minister Carwyn Jones said he was “deeply disappointed” with the result.
“This was a referendum I was never convinced we should have,” he said. “Not because I object to the democratic decision taken today, but because of its timing so soon after elections.
“I always feared that the debate would never really be about the EU.
“This argument has not been one that represents a great advert for our political discourse in Britain.”
But he added he would respect the decision which was taken, saying: “No matter how you voted yesterday, no matter how you voted in May, this Welsh Government will fight for your interests.”
He said discussions around the potential impact on jobs, Wales’ funding from central government and a range of other issues must now be held as a matter of urgency.
“It is too early for anyone to fully analyse why the country voted the way it did last night,” he said.
“But one thing is obvious. Areas of Wales and England that contain post-industrial communities, often deprived communities, voted out – even though they had often benefited massively from European funding.
“Even though those communities voted for parties in May who supported a Remain vote.
“Too many people in these communities feel that politics, and our economy, has left them behind, and we have a real task ahead to undo that sense of alienation.”
But parish priest of Christ Church in Ebbw Vale Rev Geoff Waggett, said thousands of new jobs could be created in the area if the Welsh Government would only give the go-ahead to the Circuit of Wales project.
“It’s all ready to go,” he said. “We’re just waiting for Carwyn Jones to sign it off.
“All the investment is in place – there’s no point in him talking about job losses when he’s standing in the way of this.”
Members of the Vote Leave campaign group, including Monmouth MP David Davies and Ukip Wales leader Nathan Gill, staged a short rally in Newport city centre this afternoon, where they thanked supporters for their part in the victory.
Mr Davies said: “In years to come people are going to look back on this day as the day Britain became truly independent.”
The Conservative MP also refuted claims the Leave campaign was anti-immigration, saying: “We welcome all people to this country who come here to work.
“Those people who come here looking for some sort of free ride are not going to find it as easy.”
He added he was not concerned that Monmouthshire as an area had voted to remain despite his strong role in campaigning for a Brexit.
“A lot of people in farming areas are concerned about subsidies,” he said. “And a lot of people told me they were reluctantly voting to remain.
“There are still so many people who voted to leave.”
Mr Gill also thanked supporters, saying: “Project Fear was an abject failure.
“The people of Wales are not stupid and they know when they are being told a whopper.”
Newport City Council leader Cllr Debbie Wilcox said she was surprised by both the outcome and the margin by which Leave won.
“Many aspects of local government are involved both financially and operationally with EU programmes that are delivered in Wales," she said.
"We will have to sit and wait and see how the negotiations develop and the story unfolds as the UK prepares to leave the EU over the coming months and perhaps years.
"In the short term we should see no immediate change.
“We will of course work closely with Welsh Government to protect the interests of activities in Newport that may be affected by this significant decision.”
Newly-elected Islwyn AM Rhianon Passmore said she was “deeply disappointed” by the result.
“It is my considered view that it will have a negative impact on jobs and funding for Wales,” she said.
“However, as a democrat I respect the decision of the electorate.”
Her Westminster counterpart Chris Evans echoed her words, saying: “What comes next will be a challenge, of that there can be no doubt.
“Many harsh words have been said between all sides of the debate and the country is near equally split between two very legitimate points of view, but now is the time to come together and rebuild bridges.
‘That is why I will be working tirelessly alongside my colleagues in Parliament, as well as local communities and businesses to ensure that whatever happens along the new path the people have chosen for our country, we make the best of it, keep calm and carry on, as we have always done as a country.”
Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies, who campaigned in favour of Leave, said he was pleased by the result but recognised it would not be welcomed by all.
"I will always act in what I perceive to be the best interest of Welsh communities, and it is my sincere belief that today's vote is a great opportunity for Wales to benefit economically, socially and culturally,” he said.
His Plaid Cymru counterpart Leanne Wood, who campaigned against a Brexit, said she was convinced leaving the EU would damage Wales.
“All the promises made by the Leave campaign, with regards to safeguarding grants and financial support for Wales and our NHS must now be fully honoured, not only up to 2020 under current EU programmes, but beyond that into the future,” she said.
“Plaid Cymru will work to ensure that every penny and every key power that is handed down directly from Brussels comes to Wales.
“On this dark and uncertain morning for our country, people can rest assured that Plaid Cymru is united, confident and focused on getting the best for Wales.”
And Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Mark Williams said he was “deeply disappointed” by the result.
“As a party the Welsh Liberal Democrats believe strongly in internationalism, working with our allies to tackle the biggest issues facing our planet such as climate change, and to provide greater opportunities to people in our country,” he said.
“While not perfect, I believe the EU has been an important part of this aim.”
The Welsh Assembly’s presiding officer Elin Jones said the result had “far reaching implications for the direction of our nation and the Assembly”.
“Wales and the Assembly will need to have strong voice and be at the table of any future discussions about the future of the UK,” she said.
“Specifically, Welsh interests and concerns must be taken on board through the coming months including the EU level negotiations and within the UK.”
The Welsh Local Government Association called the result “a seismic change in UK public policy” with “serious consequences for Welsh councils”.
The organisation’s leader, councillor Bob Wellington, said new policies must be put in place in order for projects such as the Cardiff Capital Region and the South East Wales Metro – which Carwyn Jones previously said would have to be scrapped if the UK voted to leave the EU – to continue.
“There is an extremely important task to undertake over the next period, to ensure that the protections offered to the Welsh public by our councils are not undermined by removing from the UK the fundamentals of European legislation which provide so much unseen public protection activity at the local level,” he said.
Cllr Wellington, who is also the leader of Torfaen County Borough Council added there was “much to reflect upon”.
“We fully accept the judgement of the Welsh and UK electorate, and our councils will seek to work with all levels of government to deliver the best possible outcome for communities in Wales,” he said.
President of the South and Mid Wales Chamber of Commerce and Langstone business owner Liz Maher said the result would “cause uncertainty” for Welsh businesses.
“Politicians must now coalesce and put differences aside to ensure a strong government can negotiate the best deal for Welsh businesses, especially those trading with Europe,” she said.
“We will also be looking to the government for assurances to our universities, farmers and organisations currently reliant on European funding that they will not lose out when we eventually leave the EU.”
The vote also sent shockwaves through national politics, with Prime Minister David Cameron – who campaigned for the UK to remain in the EU – announcing he would resign in October.
Making the announcement outside Downing Street the Prime Minister, who just 13 months ago secured an absolute majority for the Conservative Party in Westminster, said it was "not a decision I have taken lightly".
Mr Cameron, flanked by his wife Samantha, stood by his assertion that the UK could "find a way" to survive outside the EU.
"Now the decision has been made to leave we need to find the best way and I will do everything I can to help," he said.
Senior Brexit campaigner Boris Johnson, tipped by many to be Mr Cameron’s successor in Number 10, hailed the Prime Minister as “a brave and principled man”.
The former London mayor said: "I believe the British people have spoken up for democracy in Britain and across Europe and I think we can be very proud of the result."
He added the result "doesn't mean that the UK will be in any way less united, nor indeed does it mean we will be any less European".
But the news caused turmoil in the markets, with the FTSE plunging by more than 7 per cent at one stage before recovering, while the value of sterling crashed.
The result could also spell bad news for Pro-EU Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, with senior backbencher Dame Margaret Hodge tabling a motion of no confidence in him and urging him to "do the decent thing" and follow Mr Cameron's lead in quitting.