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

On Feb. 26th, practice kindness and wear pink to symbolize that you do not tolerate bullying

Bullying is a major problem in our schools, workplaces, homes, and online

Working Well Workshop coming to White Sands

Informative water well management workshop will help residents protect their drinking water

Community marks the completion of the second phase of the renovation project at Stettler Hospital

Two new labour and delivery suites opened Feb. 6th, replacing the previous one room

Castor and Coronation FCSS offices invited Turning Point from Red Deer to speak on the current trends in drugs

Jen McCrindel, Kevin Cunningham and Tricia Peden were the presenters for the evening

VIDEO: Minister reports ‘modest progress’ after blockade talks with First Nation

Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs say Coastal GasLink does not have authority to go through their lands

Canadian nurses’ unions warn national standards for coronavirus protection too low

President says safety protocols nationwide are inadequate compared to those in Ontario and other countries

Murder of sex worker exposes Canada’s hypocrisy on prostitution: advocate

A 2014 law made purchasing sex or benefiting from the selling of sex illegal

Canada’s flag was flown for first time 55 years ago today

The flag is used to celebrate wins in sports, honour Canada Day, and flown at half-mast after tragedy

No shirts, no city services: Firefighter calendar too steamy for Ontario officials

The city has never funded the calendars, but has OK’d photoshoots at city-owned properties

CFL teams under the microscope after free agency begins

While some big names remain, here’s what lies ahead leading up to next month’s CFL combine in Toronto

Kenney says ongoing rail blockade risks becoming an economic crisis

‘I think Canadians are losing patience with this. I know Indigenous people are’

CFL’s Edmonton Eskimos keep team name following consultations

Talks stem from 2015 concerns about Inuit people being used as mascots in sports

Most Read