EU Referendum

Kent overwhelmingly votes to leave the EU

Nigel Farage celebrating Image copyright PA
Image caption South East MEP and UKIP leader Nigel Farage has been celebrating victory for the leave camp

People in Kent have voted strongly in favour of leaving the European Union.

Over 970,000 people in the county cast a vote in the historic referendum, with 59% voting to leave and 41% to remain.

Tunbridge Wells was the county's only district that voted to stay in the EU, with 54.9% voting to remain and 45.1% to leave. Turnout there was 79%.

Local Conservative MP Greg Clark tweeted: "Now, as we negotiate with our European neighbours, we must show calm judgement and mutual respect."

Ashford, Canterbury, Dartford, Dover, Tonbridge and Malling, Gravesham, Maidstone, Medway, Sevenoaks, Shepway, Swale and Thanet all voted to leave, with Gravesham delivering the biggest vote at 65.4%.

The closest race was in Canterbury with 51% voting to leave and 49% to remain.

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Image caption Craig Mackinlay said it was his most interesting day in British politics

Conservative MP for South Thanet, Craig Mackinlay, was jubilant. He said: "It's the day that I've been fighting for for 25 years."

He described it as "a narrow victory, but a significant one".

"I see the long-term for this country as being a far more buoyant economy, as we look beyond just this narrow focus of EU trade," he added.

South East MEP and UKIP leader Nigel Farage, who was defeated by Mr Mackinlay in last year's general election, said 23 June would "go down in our history as our Independence Day".

He told supporters at a Brexit party: "Dare to dream that the dawn is breaking on an independent United Kingdom."

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Media captionAcross the South East, 48.2% of people voted to remain and 51.8% chose to leave

Roger Gale, the Conservative MP for North Thanet who backed the Remain campaign, said the outcome of the referendum had left him feeling "very sad".

"I think that the people of the United Kingdom have taken a decision based mainly upon immigration, and haven't paid sufficient attention to the issues relating to security and the security of the economy," he said.

"I fear that we may pay a terrible price downstream for the decision taken yesterday."

Mr Gale added he was not surprised that 63.8% of people in Thanet had voted to leave the EU: "Sadly there is a very strong anti-immigration feeling in Thanet - has been for a long time, bordering on the extreme."

Chris Wells, leader of Thanet District Council, where UKIP is the largest party, said residents felt as though they had been "failed by traditional politics and the establishment in this country".

Image caption Thanet count at the Winter Gardens, Margate

Brexit campaigner Gareth Johnson, the Conservative MP for Dartford, which had the second highest Leave vote in Kent, said: "What we've seen today is Britain has spoken, Dartford has spoken, Kent has spoken.

"People wanted out of the European Union... we're sailing into unchartered waters, but I do genuinely believe that in the long-term it will be best for Britain."

Analysis: BBC political reporter Tom Darby

In total, all but one of Kent's districts voted to leave, in many cases by an overwhelming amount.

And if that doesn't tell you something about how much our county wanted to be out of the European Union, just take a look at the numbers.

But we shouldn't be surprised by this result - this is, after all, the spiritual home of UKIP: the place where Nigel Farage tried to become an MP, and where - albeit briefly - the party gained control of its second Westminster seat.

Tim Luckhurst, professor of journalism at the University of Kent, said: "There has been a complete populist revolt against political leadership, against business leadership against establishments and elites in general."

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