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British flag lowered from outside European Parliament ahead of Brexit hour

As the clock strikes 11pm, Britain becomes the first country to leave the 28-member bloc.

Source: TheJournal.ie/YouTube

THE BRITISH FLAG has been removed from its flagpole outside the European Parliament and replaced with the flag of the EU.

The Union flag was removed at exactly 8pm by parliamentary staff, watched by crowds of journalists and British expats. A European flag was raised in its place. 

At the clocks strike 11:00 pm — midnight in Brussels — Britain becomes the first country to leave the 28-member bloc and will go it alone for the first time since 1973.

Dozens of people had gathered on the pavement outside the parliamentary building from dusk to witness the last symbol of Britain’s membership of the EU be taken away.

A group of newly redundant assistants to the UK’s MEPs attended sporting their commemorative UK/EU scarves.

There was a small cheer as the lowering mechanism got briefly stuck, with one onlooker joking: “It means you have to Remain.”

The flag is due to be placed in the House of European History in Brussels, a spokesman for the European Parliament said.

Earlier today, British flags were removed from the foyer of the parliament and from inside the European Council.

Tweet by @EU Council Press Source: EU Council Press/Twitter

Tonight meanwhile in the UK, both Remainers and Leavers are marking the exit with a series of events.

Brexiteers will gather for a party in Parliament Square led by Nigel Farage, while Union flags are already flying around Westminster.

In official events, Downing Street will be illuminated with a light show while a new commemorative 50p coin is entering circulation.

Prime Minister Johnson will spend the evening in Number 10 hosting a celebratory reception for senior ministers, officials, and supporters of the 2016 referendum campaign to leave the EU.

While Nigel Farage will lead festivities at a rally in central London tonight, pro-EU groups are set to hold a candlelit vigil down the road in Westminster this evening.

In Scotland, which voted to stay in the EU in the 2016 referendum, candlelit vigils are planned.

The Leave a Light On gatherings are taking place in Aberdeen, Dundee, Glasgow, and Stirling, among other locations, and participants intend to send a message to the EU to keep open a place for Scotland.

In Northern Ireland, the campaign group Border Communities Against Brexit was staging a series of protests near the border in Armagh.

European reaction

German Chancellor Angela Merkel called Britain’s departure a “sea-change” for the bloc, although nothing will immediately feel different because of an 11-month transition period negotiated as part of an EU-UK exit deal ratified this week.

French president Emmanuel Macron has taken a thinly veiled swipe at Boris Johnson by claiming the Brexit campaign was “based on lies”.

Macron said Brexit was an “alarm signal” which should be heard across the EU.

The French president said: “At midnight, for the first time in 70 years, a country will leave the European Union.

“It is a historic alarm signal that must be heard in each of our countries.”

President Macron said France had always respected the decision taken by the British people in the 2016 referendum.

But he restated his belief that much the referendum campaign was “based on lies, exaggerations, simplifications, cheques that were promised and will never be delivered”.

- With reporting by © – AFP 2019

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