Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump celebrated Britain's stunning vote to leave the European Union Friday in Ayrshire, Scotland, saying that the people of the United Kingdom have "taken their country back."
"I think it's a great thing that happened," Trump told reporters, according to the New York Times, shortly after his helicopter landed at his Trump Turnberry golf resort. "People are angry, all over the world people, they're angry."
His two-day visit to Scotland comes during a historic and tumultuous moment for the United Kingdom. Voters defied the political establishment Thursday by formally deciding to cut ties with the European Union. The vote, which Trump called a "fantastic thing" and "historic," had immediate political and economic repercussions in the United Kingdom and around the world. The value of the British pound plummeted as stock markets dropped sharply globally. On Friday, Prime Minister David Cameron announced his intention to resign after waging a failed campaign to remain in the EU.
"They're angry over borders, they're angry over people coming into the country and taking over, nobody even knows who they are," Trump said, echoing the populist pitch he has made in the United States. "They're angry about many, many things. They took back control of their country. It's a great thing."
Voters in Scotland overwhelmingly voted to remain in the European Union, but were outnumbered by voters in England and Wales. The sharp division could give new life to a push in Scotland for independence from the United Kingdom.
"The people of the United Kingdom have exercised the sacred right of all free peoples. They have declared their independence from the European Union, and have voted to reassert control over their own politics, borders and economy," Trump said in a formal statement released by his campaign Friday morning. "A Trump Administration pledges to strengthen our ties with a free and independent Britain, deepening our bonds in commerce, culture and mutual defense."
When asked a few weeks ago about the referendum by the Hollywood Reporter, Trump seemed to not understand the question at first.
"Huh?" Trump said in the interview, which was published on June 1.
"Brexit," reporter Michael Wolff repeated a second time.
"Hmm," Trump said.
"The Brits leaving the EU," Wolff prompted.
"Oh yeah, I think they should leave," Trump said.
On Friday morning, Trump attended an opening ceremony at Trump Turnberry, a luxury resort on Scotland's western coast, and is expected to also visit a golf resort he owns near Aberdeen on the eastern coast. Scotland is the birthplace of his mother, who immigrated to New York as a teenager.
The morning started quietly in the tiny village of Turnberry as dozens of reporters showed up to a muddy parking lot to be transported to Trump's resort about half a mile down the road. There was a cool wind off the Irish Sea and the temperature hovered in the mid-50s.
Just ahead of Trump's arrival, guests and resort staff members wearing red caps lined up on the grand stairwell leading from the street to the resort on a hilltop perch. A handful of men wearing dark suits and ties stood watch at the resort's various driveways but there was no heavy police presence as expected by locals - and is usually seen at Trump's political events in the United States.
But unlike those rowdy rallies, this event featured two bagpipers.
Turnberry was built more than a century ago, and purchased by Trump in 2014. The property has undergone extensive renovations and reopened on June 1.
Most of the local coverage of Trump's arrival focused on the police's grand strategy to protect him during his visit, which the Daily Record described as "a ring of steel around Trump."
The trip is mostly a business one for Trump, although he will likely be asked questions about the campaign during a press conference with dozens of American political reporters.
The journey is the latest example of the fuzzy, and sometimes invisible, line between Trump the presumptive GOP nominee and Trump the businessman - an arrangement that many ethics experts, including many fellow Republicans, view as inappropriate or worse. They say Trump should take formal steps to separate himself from his business and financial holdings, both domestic and foreign, as he seeks to enter the White House, just as Mitt Romney and other candidates have done.
At about 9:15 a.m., Trump's helicopter appeared in the cloudy Scottish sky. Down below were dozens of reporters and resort staff members. The white helicopter, with the word TRUMP written in bold red letters, landed on the grass in front of the crowd. The staff and resort guests burst into cheers as Trump stepped off the chopper and made his way inside, shouting out a few comments to reporters.
A handful of curious locals watched the spectacle, including one man with a pro-Trump sign who said that the millionaire has pumped money into the region.
About 20 minutes later, after everyone had gone inside to escape the cold, a bus filled with protesters from Glasgow pulled up. About 50 people disembarked and handed out pink and yellow signs reading: "No to racism. No to Trump." The group refused to stand inside a gated pen that police set up for them, but instead insisted on lining the road in front of Turnberry. More than a dozen local police officers soon arrived, along with four riding horses. About 20 minutes later, two more buses pulled up, bringing the total to a couple hundred.
The protesters chanted a number of things, including "Trump go home!" and "Say it loud, say it clear, refugees are welcome here!" An organizer on a megaphone belted out: "Trump always plays the racist card at all times!"
Mike Ross, 48, wore a T-shirt featuring Trump's face and this message: "Donald Trump, Making Ayrshire Great Again." He carried a sign with the same image and message.
"He has invested a load in this place," said Ross, who has gone back to school to study business.
Ross said that he voted Thursday for the U.K. to leave the EU and he was overjoyed to see the results on Friday morning. He said that it's time for the country to have it's own sovereignty and "rule ourselves," especially when it comes to issues like immigration.
"I can't believe it," Ross said. "I have had a smile on my face all morning."
He sees a number of parallels between the Thursday vote in the U.K. and the American presidential election.
"I like him. I like the way he's changing politics and the stuffy political correctness," Ross said of Trump. "He's breaking all of the protocols. The leave vote was part of that. People are fed up."
As he talked with a reporter, a protester walked by and shouted: "Are you a racist as well, man?"
Andre Zaisluik, a 65-year-old retiree who lives about 3 miles from Trump's resort, ventured down the road to see the wealthy businessman's much-hyped arrival. Zaisluik said that he did roadwork for 50 years and cannot afford to golf at Turnberry, but he appreciates all of the money Trump has put into renovating the resort.
"He has spent a lot of money here. He has done wonders," Zaisluik said.
Zaisluik said that on Thursday he voted for the U.K. to remain in the EU - like most Scots - and he was surprised by the outcome of the vote. "I don't know what the future's going to be. I haven't a clue. There's a lot of fear-mongering," he said.