Within minutes of polling stations closing, a letter from 84 Conservative MPs who had campaigned for Brexit was delivered to Prime Minister David Cameron, thanking him for calling the referendum and urging him to stay, whatever the outcome. Among them was former London Mayor Boris Johnson, one of the most vocal supporters of Brexit.
Cameron had led the Remain campaign and found the backing of all living former UK prime ministers.
He called the vote in 2013 under pressure from the rebellious anti-EU wing of his Conservative Party and the surging UK Independence Party (UKIP), hoping to end decades of debate over Britain's ties with Europe.
IMPACT ON MALTA
Malta had been backing calls for the UK to stay in the EU.
The sudden drop in the value of the Sterling is likely to hurt the Maltese tourism industry, as European holidays become more expensive for Brits. Britain is Malta's biggest tourist market. The Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association made mention of this threat, though it also said that the fallout would be "more complicated".
Conversely, UK holidays for the Maltese would be cheaper. Buying goods from the UK would also be cheaper, but that may not last long if the UK loses free trade arrangements within the EU and customs are reintroduced. Maltese exports would be more expensive.
The Brexit decision could also have a significant impact on the EU's agenda while Malta is EU president in the first half of next year, potentially sidelining issues Malta would like to give prominence to.
Britain's departure from the EU could also see Malta losing a valuable ally as it resists efforts for tax harmonisation in the bloc, something seen as important for the financial services industry.
On the other hand, Malta could benefit as an EU financial jurisdiction if financial companies decide to quit London.
The British Brexit decision also raises questions on a range of other issues. For example, will Air Malta continue to enjoy Open Skies arrangements in the UK, and how would that impact on the sale of equity in the airline?
Will Maltese living and working in the UK (and vice versa) face new hurdles? Will Maltese students continue to be able to study in UK university under the current terms?
The treatment of Maltese patients in UK hospitals is not likely to be affected since that is regulated by reciprocal arrangements.
Britain's departure from the EU could also cause a hole in the EU budget, with the UK currently contributing some £350 million a week. That might require Malta (and other countries) to raise its contribution, or scale back its receipts from the EU.