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Brexit day: Celebration and regret as Britain leaves EU after 47 years

Britain has left the European Union, bringing the curtain down on 47 years of membership.

Almost four years on from the 2016 referendum, the UK ceased to be a member of the bloc at 11pm on Friday.

Sky News marked the moment by projecting a Brexit countdown clock on the White Cliffs of Dover, which ended in the historic announcement, “The UK has left the EU.”

PM: ‘An astonishing moment of hope’

A light show illuminated Downing Street when the clock struck 11pm, with a mixture of celebration and regret across Britain on a landmark day.

In a video message released to mark Brexit, Prime Minister Boris Johnson referenced the divisions that have been caused by the Leave vote.


He said that while Brexit represented an “astonishing moment of hope” for many, there will be others who “feel a sense of anxiety and loss”.

But he predicted that the “opportunity” of Brexit can be turned into a “stunning success”.

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The PM hosted a reception in Number 10 for cabinet ministers, advisers and civil servants, officials who were involved in the negotiations, and supporters of the Leave campaign.

Supporters and opponents of Brexit made their views known throughout Britain, with Westminster a particular focus for events.

Hundreds of Brexit supporters gathered for a party led by Nigel Farage on Parliament Square.

Farage all smiles as Brexit supporters celebrate

Addressing the crowd, Mr Farage said Brexit was the “greatest moment in the modern history of our great nation”.

Speaking to Sky News, the Brexit Party leader said people laughed at him for trying to get the UK out of the EU, “but they’re not laughing any more”.

“We are better, bigger, stronger than being a star on somebody else’s flag,” he added.

Brexit party ‘like Punch and Judy show’ as toxic mood persists

A recording of bongs from Big Ben was played out through speakers when the clock struck 11pm.

This was followed by a rendition of the national anthem, with the lyrics displayed on a large screen above the stage.

Image: Downing Street was illuminated to mark the occasion

Earlier, pro-EU demonstrators took part in a procession through Whitehall.

A crowd also gathered across the road from Number 10, waving EU flags and anti-Brexit placards.

The message “we still love EU” was beamed onto the White Cliffs of Dover.

Leavers and Remainers reflect on Brexit

It came after a love letter to the bloc from two Second World War veterans was projected onto the cliffs.

The video ended with the stars of the EU flag slowly disappearing, leaving just one star.

“This is our star. Look after it for us,” the last message said.

UK flag removed and folded away at EU Council

Candlelit vigils took place in Scotland, which voted to stay in the EU.

Leave a Light On gatherings happened in Aberdeen, Dundee, Glasgow, and Stirling, among other locations.

Image: An anti-Brexit rally was staged outside the Scottish Parliament at Holyrood Image: A candlelight vigil was held by pro-EU supporters in Glasgow

Participants wanted to send a message to the EU to keep open a place for Scotland, amid a renewed bid from the SNP for a second independence referendum.

In Northern Ireland, there were a series of protests in Armagh, close to the border with the Republic of Ireland.

The story of Brexit

In Brussels, the EU has been preparing for life without Britain in the bloc.

The UK flag was removed from its flagpole outside the European Parliament – and other EU institutions – and will be placed in a museum.

Attention has already turned to the next set of talks aimed at the relationship in trade and other areas which will apply from 1 January 2021.

How the EU changed us

Brussels is pessimistic about the 11-month timetable for reaching a deal and made clear that Britain will have to accept worse terms and conditions for trade than if it were still a member of the EU.

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said: “We want to have the best possible relationship with the United Kingdom, but it will never be as good as membership.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Brexit was “a deep break for us all” and warned the “negotiations will certainly not be easy”.

Image: The UK’s flag was taken down outside the European Parliament building in Brussels

Meanwhile, French President Emmanuel Macron said Brexit was an “alarm signal” for the EU and hit out at the “lies, exaggerations, simplifications” that led to the Leave vote.

The vote for Brexit caused a political earthquake, with British politics consumed by the aftershocks for years.

It ended the premierships of David Cameron, who called the referendum, and Theresa May, who saw her time in Downing Street ended by the Brexit chaos.

Mr Johnson, who led the campaign to leave the EU, managed to get a Brexit deal passed by parliament.

Brexit: How we got here

He gambled on a snap election and was returned to power with a commanding majority.

But although a page has been turned in the process, Britain still has to negotiate the terms of its future relationship with Brussels during a transition period.

Mr Johnson has said he will not ask the EU for an extension to this, setting the stage for the next potential battle with the bloc.


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