The United Kingdom has officially left the European Union more than three years after a referendum that left the country bitterly divided.
The departure brings an end to years of political wrangling that has at times paralyzed Westminster, ended the leadership of two prime ministers and left the UK parliament with the biggest Conservative majority since the years of Margaret Thatcher.
The United Kingdom is the first nation to withdraw from the European Union in its history and closes a 47-year chapter of the country’s membership in the post-war bloc.
Now, an 11-month transition period lies ahead, as well as what is expected to be a protracted period of trade negotiations with the EU.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson addressed the nation earlier in a pre-recorded speech, calling on the country to celebrate a “new dawn” of independence and vowing to deliver on Brexit’s promises: “Whether that is by controlling immigration or creating freeports or liberating our fishing industry or doing free trade deals.”
But the momentous occasion passed by with little fanfare – a countdown clock was projected on 10 Downing Street in lieu of London’s famous Big Ben (which is being repaired.)
It rained down in London at a Brexit party at Parliament Square, where officials had banned fireworks and live music.
A clock at 10 Downing Street counted down to the moment the United Kingdom officially left the European Union — after being a member for 47 years. Now that Brexit's done, here's a look back at how the day unfolded. https://t.co/2rIs69YXoG pic.twitter.com/4MqOj9gwUs
— CNN (@CNN) February 1, 2020
Boris Johnson calls for unity in “new act of our great national drama”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has shared his vision for a post-Brexit UK in an address to the nation, calling on the country to celebrate a “new dawn” of independence.
In a pre-recorded speech broadcast an hour before the nation officially leaves the European Union, Johnson said the moment was one of “real national renewal and change,” and promised a more equal country for UK nationals across the kingdom.
He also said it was the moment to deliver on the promises of Brexit, as an 11-month transition period of negotiations lies ahead before the country can fully break free of the bloc.
“This is the moment when the dawn breaks and the curtain goes up on a new act in our great national drama,” he said.
“And yes it is partly about using these new powers – this recaptured sovereignty – to deliver the changes people voted for.
“Whether that is by controlling immigration or creating freeports or liberating our fishing industry or doing free trade deals.
“Or simply making our laws and rules for the benefit of the people of this country.
“And of course I think that is the right and healthy and democratic thing to do, because for all its strengths and for all its admirable qualities, the EU has evolved over 50 years in a direction that no longer suits this country. And that is a judgment that you, the people, have now confirmed at the polls.”