INTERNATIONAL

Britain embarks on a future outside the European Union

New beginning:The Union flag being removed from the atrium of the Europa building in Brussels on Friday.APOlivier Hoslet

New beginning:The Union flag being removed from the atrium of the Europa building in Brussels on Friday.APOlivier Hoslet  

Britain began an uncertain future outside the European Union on Saturday after the country greeted the historic end to almost half a century of EU membership with a mixture of joy and sadness.

There were celebrations and tears on Friday as the EU’s often reluctant member became the first to leave an organisation set up to forge unity among nations after the horrors of World War II.

Little has changed as of Saturday as the U.K. is now in an 11-month transition period negotiated as part of the divorce.

Britons will be able to work in the EU and trade freely — and vice versa — until December 31, although the U.K. will no longer be represented in the bloc’s institutions.

But legally, Britain is out.

Thousands of people waving Union Jack flags packed London’s Parliament Square and sang the national anthem to mark that reality as Brexit became law at 11 pm (2300 GMT) — midnight in Brussels.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson held a private party in his Downing Street office with a clock projected on the walls outside counting down the minutes to departure.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is preparing to impose full customs and border checks on all European Union goods entering Britain from next year, in an attempt to increase pressure on the bloc in trade talks, The Daily Telegraph newspaper reported.

“We are planning full checks on all EU imports — export declarations, security declarations, animal health checks and all supermarket goods to pass through Border Inspections Posts,” Saturday’s Telegraph quoted a senior government source as saying.

Deep divisions

However, Brexit has exposed deep divisions in British society and many fear the consequences of ending 47 years of ties with their nearest neighbours.

Some pro-Europeans, including many of the 3.6 million EU citizens who have made their lives in Britain, marked the occasion with candlelit gatherings.

Recommended for you