Brexit supporters hold signs in Parliament Square in London, Friday, Jan. 31, 2020. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

Britain leaves the EU, leaps into the unknown

It’s the first time a country has left the now-27-member European Union

So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, adieu.

With little fanfare, Britain left the European Union on Friday after 47 years of membership, taking a leap into the unknown in a historic blow to the bloc.

The U.K.’s departure became official at 11 p.m. (2300GMT), midnight in Brussels, where the EU is headquartered. Thousands of enthusiastic Brexit supporters gathered outside Britain’s Parliament to welcome the moment they’d longed for since Britain’s 52%-48% vote in June 2016 to walk away from the club it had joined in 1973. The flag-waving crowd erupted in cheers as Big Ben bonged 11 times — on a recording. Parliament’s real bell has been silenced for repairs.

In a message from nearby 10 Downing St., Prime Minister Boris Johnson called Britain’s departure “a moment of real national renewal and change.”

But many Britons mourned the loss of their EU identity, and some marked the passing with tearful vigils. There was also sadness in Brussels as British flags were quietly removed from the bloc’s many buildings.

Whether Brexit makes Britain a proud nation that has reclaimed its sovereignty, or a diminished presence in Europe and the world, will be debated for years to come.

While Britain’s exit is a historic moment, it only marks the end of the first stage of the Brexit saga. When Britons wake up on Saturday, they will notice very little change. The U.K. and the EU have given themselves an 11-month “transition period” — in which the U.K. will continue to follow the bloc’s rules — to strike new agreements on trade, security and a host of other areas.

The now 27-member EU will have to bounce back from one of its biggest setbacks in its 62-year history to confront an ever more complicated world as its former member becomes a competitor, just across the English Channel.

French President Emmanuel Macron called Brexit a “historic alarm signal” that should force the EU to improve itself.

“It’s a sad day, let’s not hide it,” he said in a televised address. “But it is a day that must also lead us to do things differently.”

In the many EU buildings of Brussels on Friday, British flags were quietly lowered, folded and taken away. This is the first time a country has left the EU, and many in the bloc rued the day.

Johnson insisted post-Brexit Britain would be “simultaneously a great European power and truly global in our range and ambitions.”

“We want this to be the beginning of a new era of friendly co-operation between the EU and an energetic Britain,” Johnson said in a pre-recorded address to the country broadcast an hour before Britain’s exit.

In a break with usual practice, independent media outlets were not allowed to film Johnson’s speech, which the government recorded Thursday.

Johnson won an election victory in December with a dual promise to “get Brexit done” and deliver improved jobs, infrastructure and services for Britain’s most deprived areas, where support for leaving the EU is strongest. On Friday, he symbolically held a Cabinet meeting in the pro-Brexit town of Sunderland in northeast England, rather than in London.

KEEP READING: Wexit Canada eligible to run candidates in federal election

The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Brexit

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Vernon family shares story of son’s cancer recovery to encourage blood donation

Finlay Ritson’s parents can’t donate blood, but hope his story will encourage others to do so

WATCH: North Okanagan seniors stay fit in self-isolation

Residents have taken to their balconies to follow along in exercise class

‘An extra $220 every 90 days’: Kelowna woman worried over increased prescription dispensing fees

The Kelowna woman says it’s outrageous to charge for refills every 30 days

COVID-19: Online tool helps vulnerable people in North Okanagan receive aid

United Way’s tool connects those in need with pre-screened volunteers in the local area

General exposure to public low after inmate tests positive for COVID-19: Interior Health

The Okanagan Correctional Centre inmate is receiving appropriate care

‘Hold our line’: 29 new cases of COVID-19 announced in B.C.

Saturday’s number of new cases marks the lowest in weeks.

UPDATE: Coronavirus concerns prompt event cancellations across the Okanagan

This is a running list of events cancelled across the Okanagan

COVID-19: Staying home in Shuswap is difficult when you don’t have one

As the snow flies, people without homes in Salmon Arm talk about how tough life is

Critic, workers’ group ‘disappointed’ Trudeau chose Amazon to distribute PPE

Amazon Canada said in an email to The Canadian Press that it is working with Canada Post, Purolator

‘Always look on the sunny side,’ Okanagan senior says

Heaton Place resident shares story of growing up in Roaring Twenties

COVID-19: ‘Think before you click,’ north Okanagan city says

City of Armstrong urges residents stay safe online as phone, email scams on rise amid pandemic

North Okanagan district discourages campfires amid COVID-19

Campfire ban in effect for RDCO but not for neighbour district in the north

Vernon Superstore sees long lineups amid COVID-19

Long lineups Saturday evidence customers following social-distancing protocols

Full World COVID-19 update: National Guard collect ventilators in New York; Spain, Italy improve

Comprehensive coronavirus update with news from around the world.

Most Read