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For British expats, Brexit is occasion for shock and disbelief (and beer)

Ivan Levingston | CNBC

Hours after the UK's historic vote to exit the European Union shocked the world and sent financial markets crashing, British expats gathered at local pubs in New York to express their disbelief and speculate on what may be in store for their country's future.

"I didn't believe it myself until this morning," said Kevin Hynes, who co-owns the Cock and Bull British restaurant in midtown Manhattan with his wife.

As the bar began to heat up around lunchtime with Wall Street workers coming in for a beer and lunch, the BBC streamed in the background and talk of the Brexit dominated conversation.

Hynes, who is from Dublin but has British family, said a lot of British visitors come to his bar on vacation, and he had been surprised by the number of people who said they were in favor of a Brexit. He called the decision to have a referendum a "big mistake" for UK Prime Minister David Cameron, and said he did not know who would end the fearmongering that lead up to the victory for "leave."

David Bruder, who came over to the U.S from London around two to three years ago, said he does not usually go to bars in the middle of the day, but was at the Cock and Bull "in honor of the historic occasion."

But Bruder, sporting a shirt bearing the British flag, said it was a not a celebratory — but rather an emotionally conflicted and "shocking" — outcome for him.

While he said that "rationally" it would have been better for the UK to remain in the EU, he felt a "moment of emotional jubilation at the leave."

He wasn't alone. Chris Jordan, originally from outside of London, called it "the worst possible way that the correct answer could come out."

Jordan said he was not surprised though, and predicted the fate of Scotland — whose leader is already calling for another referendum on the region's independence from Great Britain — would dominate the continuing conversation. His lunchtime partner predicted it would lead to a weaker Europe and a strengthened Russia.

Diners munched on pot pie and mash, and a few could be heard ordering extra rounds to help ease the day's stress. Overall, the mood was relatively subdued despite the dire warnings flashing on the TV screens.

"I don't think it's the end of Britain's global relevance," Bruder said.