Brexit: UK brings down curtain on EU membership after 47 years

Britain brings down the curtain on 47 years of European Union membership on Friday with little in the way of official ceremony to mark the historic moment.

Some 1,317 days after the 2016 referendum vote to Leave, the formal departure from the 28-nation bloc will take place at 11pm UK time – midnight in Brussels.

Boris Johnson, who served as the figurehead of the Vote Leave campaign and last Friday signed the withdrawal treaty after its passage through parliament, said the day would signal “the dawn of a new era”.

But Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said that the country stood at “a crossroads” with many of the most important decisions about its future relations with the EU and the wider world yet to be made.

And Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish first minister, is expected to say that Scotland is being taken out of the EU against the wishes of the “overwhelming majority” of its people, in a speech setting out the next steps in her battle for an independence referendum.

Downing Street made clear the prime minister will not be making any public appearance to celebrate the moment of withdrawal.

After chairing cabinet in Sunderland – the city whose vote for Brexit was the first sign of Leave’s victory on referendum night – the prime minister will return to London to attend an evening reception with staff behind closed doors.

A light display beamed onto the frontage of No 10 will be visible only to a few journalists and security staff inside the black gates of Downing Street.

And a pre-recorded video message risked going unseen by TV viewers, due to a spat with broadcasters who objected to No 10’s insistence of filming the footage itself rather than following the normal practice of inviting in a pool camera from one of the television companies.

Supporters of Brexit will welcome the accomplishment of their long-cherished goal with a rally in Parliament Square, where they are promised speeches from Nigel Farage and Anne Widdecombe as well as patriotic songs.

But there will be no chimes from Big Ben, no fireworks and no alcohol allowed on an evening forecast to be chilly and damp.

Following the ratification of Mr Johnson’s withdrawal agreement by parliaments in Westminster and Brussels, the UK is required to hand over more than £30bn to settle liabilities, guarantee rights to EU expats living in Britain and establish a customs border down the Irish Sea. It will lose all representation in EU decision-making institutions, but will remain subject to EU rules during a transition period lasting until the end of December.

The Department for Exiting the EU will cease to exist at 11pm on Friday, with staff redistributed to ministries across Whitehall. But members of the public are not expected to notice any immediate change to everyday life while the transition takes place.

A woman holds up the Union and the European Union flags during an event called "Brussels calling" to celebrate the friendship between Belgium and Britain at the Grand Place in Brussels, Thursday, Jan. 30, 2020. The European Union grudgingly let go of the United Kingdom with a final vote Wednesday at the EU's parliament that ended the Brexit divorce battle and set the scene for tough trade negotiations in the year ahead. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)© ASSOCIATED PRESS A woman holds up the Union and the European Union flags during an event called “Brussels calling” to celebrate the friendship between Belgium and Britain at the Grand Place in Brussels, Thursday, Jan. 30, 2020. The European Union grudgingly let go of the United Kingdom with a final vote Wednesday at the EU’s parliament that ended the Brexit divorce battle and set the scene for tough trade negotiations in the year ahead. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)The UK then faces a tight schedule to secure a new trade agreement with the remaining EU members by New Year’s Eve or face a potentially damaging no-deal crash-out on World Trade Organisation terms. With Brussels yet to draw up a mandate for negotiations, talks are not expected to begin until March, with agreement on fisheries and financial services needed by July.

Source: Independent.co.uk

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