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Johnson says Brexit will be success but there may be ‘bumps in the road’ as divided Britain leaves EU

The UK has left the European Union ending 47 years of close ties to Brussels

Pro-Brexit supporters in Parliament Square, London
Pro-Brexit supporters in Parliament Square, London
Image: Jonathan Brady/PA

THE UK HAS left the European Union, bringing to an end almost half a century as a member state. 

UK Prime Minister acknowledged there could be “bumps in the road” as the country enters a new era, but he insisted that Brexit can “unleash the full potential” of the UK.

Johnson accepted there would be mixed feelings in a nation that remains deeply divided after years of bitter Brexit battles.

“For many people this is an astonishing moment of hope, a moment they thought would never come,” he said.

“And there are many of course who feel a sense of anxiety and loss.”

The UK joined the then European Economic Community in 1973 but the 2016 referendum signalled the beginning of the process which resulted in Britain’s membership of the bloc coming to an end at 11pm tonight. 

After years of bitter wrangling since the 2016 referendum, Johnson said his job was now to “bring this country together”.

“We want this to be the beginning of a new era of friendly cooperation between the EU and an energetic Britain, a Britain that is simultaneously a great European power and truly global in our range and ambitions.

And when I look at this country’s incredible assets, our scientists, our engineers, our world-leading universities, our armed forces, when I look at the potential of this country waiting to be unleashed I know that we can turn this opportunity into a stunning success.

“And whatever the bumps in the road ahead I know that we will succeed.”

Source: TheJournal.ie/YouTube

Some symbolic moments for the UK today:

  • The Union flag was removed from the European Union institutions in Brussels
  • The Cabinet met in Sunderland, the first city to declare in favour of Brexit when the 2016 results were announced
  • Brexiteers gathered for a party in Parliament Square, with some jumping on an EU flag in the mud
  • The White Cliffs of Dover were used to send pro-EU messages
  • A 50p coin to mark the occasion entered circulation
  • A patriotic red, white and blue light show illuminated official buildings in Whitehall and Union flags lined The Mall.

brexit A pro-Brexit supporter jumps on an EU flag in Parliament Square, London, this evening. Source: Jonathan Brady/PA

With little set to change at 11pm as a result of the deal negotiated by the UK and EU, attention has already turned to the next set of talks aimed at securing the future relationship which will apply from 1 January 2021.

And Johnson has been clear he also wants to strike deals with countries around the world – notably Donald Trump’s US.

A Downing Street spokesman said: “Cabinet discussed the Government’s future trade agenda, which includes seeking a Canada-style FTA with the EU.

From tomorrow, the UK will also be free to begin trade negotiations with countries around the world – with the aim to have 80% of our trade covered by FTAs within three years.

But 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.”

Senior Cabinet minister Michael Gove acknowledged the trade-offs that would have to be made in any deal.

“We want trade to be as frictionless as possible but the EU is clear, you can only have fully frictionless trade if you accept all of their rules, if you accept all their laws, you are subordinate to their judges, you are subordinate to their political structures,” he told the BBC.

There “will be some regulations that will differ in Britain” so “that may mean that when it comes to trading with Europe there are some bureaucratic processes there that aren’t there now”.

DUP Brexit Spokesman Sammy Wilson said Northern Ireland must not be held in EU prison.

“As we leave the dank dungeon which has bound our economy, stunted our growth and restricted our economic freedom, it is important that the government does not allow the EU to continue its control through conditions attached in the negotiations which now have to follow about what our relationship is outside the walls of the European Union.”

It is especially important for Northern Ireland that the concessions given to the EU in the Withdrawal Agreement do not leave us in the EU prison yard or acting as a part of the United Kingdom released only under licence.

Wilson added that there must be no agreement to allow the EU to continue to “impose its regulations on any part of the UK, demand immense amounts of money for access to the EU market, or restrict our ability to do the trade deals we wish with other parts of the world”.

politics-brexit Source: PA Graphics

The UK Prime Minister, who has promised a “dignified” and “respectful” approach to the Brexit celebrations, was spending the evening in Number 10 at a reception for senior ministers, officials, and supporters of the Vote Leave campaign to leave the EU.

Guests were quaffing English sparkling wine and dining on canapes including fillet of lamb on toast, Shropshire blue cheese, beef and Yorkshire pudding with horseradish sauce, mushrooms tarts and roast chicken skewers.

In Scotland, which voted to stay in the EU in the 2016 referendum, rallies and candlelit vigils were taking place.

The Leave a Light On gatherings were intended to send a message to the EU to keep open a place for Scotland.

In Northern Ireland, the campaign group Border Communities Against Brexit staged a series of protests in Armagh, near to the border with the Republic of Ireland.

- With reporting from Adam Daly 

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