Racist attacks and hate crimes are sharply on the rise in the United Kingdom after the surprise result Friday of a national referendum over leaving the European Union.

The aftermath of Brexit, the term used to describe Britain’s exit from the E.U., has been cataclysmic, with catastrophic events occurring one after another with astonishing speed.

Some of these events are grand-scale political and financial disasters, others are street-level expressions of racist violence and offensive language previously not seen or heard in Britain for decades. Sky news reported Tuesday that hate crimes have risen by 57 percent since the result.

The referendum was originally called by right-wing British Prime Minister David Cameron as an attempt to stifle an anti-E.U. rebellion by far right rebels in his own political party and create unity. It has done just the opposite—and ended his career.

The shocking result, a win by the Leave campaigners by a margin of 4 percent, has bitterly divided the entire nation, caused the British pound to drop to a 31-year low, wiped out $2 trillion in the world’s stock markets, caused a downgrading of the U.K.’s credit rating and has the potential to cause instability and Europe-wide insecurity for years, with the effects felt most acutely in the U.K. itself.

After Cameron’s resignation Friday morning, his party has plunged into a leadership contest, and the opposition party has suffered a walkout by more than 40 of its leading political figures. At present, no one seems to know who is actually in charge of the U.K.

The U.K. may not even be united for much longer. Scotland voted to remain as did Northern Ireland, London and Cambridge. Now Scotland looks poised to hold a referendum over independence, meaning it would break away from the U.K. but remain within the E.U. In Northern Ireland, there are calls for reunification with the Republic of Ireland in the south. London and Cambridge have made hopeful noises about being allowed to form independent city states allied with Europe, but no one believes it could really happen because the E.U. is a confederation of nations.

On the streets, the result has delighted a portion of the 51.9 percent who voted to leave, now celebrating the take back of “control,” as the campaign slogan framed it. But the victory is not a peaceful one. Reports are coming in that racist attacks are escalating, with violence against E.U. immigrants and other communities, extremely offensive language and attacks on property owned by E.U. nationals and other immigrants.

The 48.1 percent who did not vote for Britain to leave the E.U. are furious, especially as lies told by the Leave camp were revealed with indecent haste the moment the surprise result was announced. Even some of those who voted to leave are now angry, claiming they would have voted to remain, if they had been told the truth. Twitter coined a new term for it—regrexit, a wish to have voted the other way in the referendum.

The biggest lie was the one advertised the most vigorously by the Leavers. They drove a bus round the U.K. with the words “We send the EU £350 million each week. Let’s spend it on our NHS instead (National Health Service)” painted on the side. This figure was hotly denounced as a lie at the time by the Remain camp, but it and the bus were used by Leave throughout.

But disappointment soon followed. The morning after the result, Nigel Farage, leader of ultra-right-wing party, UKIP, announced on the morning television shows that the claim on the bus had been a mistake. The country would not be saving that money, and it would not, repeat not, get extra funding for health care.

Other Leave politicians queued up to distance themselves from campaign claims. Immigration, probably the single most emotional element of their campaign, would not fall. We would not be a “greater” Britain. In fact, we were a measurably lesser Britain already. One day after the result was announced, we had dropped from being the world’s fifth largest economy to the sixth. Farage, a privately educated former commodities broker who styles himself as an antiestablishment hero, now says the country will go into recession as a result of the referendum. On this prediction, at least, he seems correct.

And then the final kicker: It turned out the politicians who had painted a joyful picture of the prosperous E.U.-free promised land had no plan. They had no strategy or detailed blueprint of how to manage the divorce from the E.U. They intended, it has been claimed, to leave it up to the prime minister to do the hard work, but he foiled them by speedily resigning. In the end, all they had was populist hot air.

Both the result and the prime minister’s resignation seemed to come as a nasty shock to the two main Leave politicians, hefty blonde Boris Johnson and his elfin sidekick, Michael Gove. Their behavior at their victory speech has been compared with a funeral rather than a celebration. It’s almost as though they never wanted to win.

So how did they win?

A look at the electoral map shows the geography of the rival vote camps very clearly. The heartlands of England and Wales voted to leave, Scotland, Northern Ireland and metropolitan areas such as London did not.

But why working-class, rural and industrial areas came out so strongly for Leave is not immediately obvious. It would seem to run contrary to self-interest. The E.U. offered a whole raft of protections for working people and human rights, as well as a massive injection of funding for everything from road building and agriculture to installing broadband in remote rural areas. It also provided a ready-made market, on the doorstep, for British goods and services, 500 million sophisticated consumers who bought 50 percent of British output. It created jobs while fostering prosperity and stability.

But with hindsight, it is pretty clear that at least some votes were cast in anger at a political class out of touch with the people they supposedly serve. Instead of voting on complex issues of membership of the E.U., other matters came to the fore.

Disenfranchised by the globalized economy, unhappy at the pace of change, dismayed by the increasing inequality of wealth, disproportionately targeted by austerity cuts and angry at increases in immigration to the U.K, voters turned the referendum into a chance to kick the government, framed as “the establishment.”

Immigration, in particular, became a burning topic, which now seems to have spilled over into hatred and violence on the streets. The Leave campaign promoted the idea that Britain was full up because of increased migration and that any more arrivals would break the system. The Leave campaign claimed immigration couldn’t be controlled without quitting the E.U. But when the vote came in, they admitted they wouldn’t be able to control it either. As a point of fact, over the years that track the uptick in migration, unemployment has declined from 8 percent to 5 percent. And areas with the lowest levels of immigration, such as Wales, saw the highest support for Brexit. Whereas London, with its high immigration tally, overwhelmingly voted to stay in the E.U.

But the Leave campaign told a divisive story. Preying on fears of overcrowding, lack of housing and jobs, scarcity of health care and public resources—in fact more closely linked to austerity than to immigration—they ratcheted up racial hatred to further their aim. But the bonfire they built and poured gasoline over still needed a spark to ignite it.

And one came along—Boris Johnson. A portly white man with fluffy blonde hair and a knack for comic one liners. Despite his super elite status, wealth and media friends, he had the gift of the common touch. With a simple slogan, “Take Back Control,” and endless media time devoted to his presence, he lit the fuse that started the fire that blazed beyond control, destroying everything in its path. America, take heed. Beware of men with fluffy blonde hair spouting simple slogans. That way, misery lies.