/Brexit: UK to quit EU at 23:00 GMT, as PM promises new dawn – BBC News

Brexit: UK to quit EU at 23:00 GMT, as PM promises new dawn – BBC News

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Boris Johnson

Prime Minister Boris Johnson will hail the “dawn of a new era” later, as the UK prepares to leave the European Union after 47 years.

In a video message to be shown at 22:00 GMT – an hour before the official departure time – he will say Brexit is “not an end but a beginning”.

He will describe severing ties with the other 27 EU nations as “a moment of real national renewal and change”.

Little will change immediately, as the UK begins a “transition period”.

Most EU laws will continue to be in force – including the free movement of people – until the end of December, by which time the UK aims to have reached a permanent free trade agreement with the EU.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn urged the country not to “turn inwards” and instead “build a truly internationalist, diverse and outward-looking Britain”.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We must be united in a common vision for our country, however great our differences on achieving it – a common hope for what we want to happen, and what we want to do in the years to come.”

And Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage said: “At last the day comes when we break free. A massive victory for the people against the establishment.”

Brexit was originally scheduled for 29 March last year but was repeatedly delayed when MPs rejected a previous withdrawal agreement reached by the EU and former Prime Minister Theresa May.

Mr Johnson was able to get his own deal through Parliament after winning December’s general election with a House of Commons majority of 80, on a pledge to “get Brexit done”.

This brought to an end more than three years of political wrangling, following the referendum of 2016, in which 52% of voters backed leaving the EU.

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Reuters

Image caption

Brexit Party MEPs left the European Parliament led by a bagpiper

The prime minister will hold a cabinet meeting in Sunderland – the city that was the first to back Brexit when results were announced after the 2016 referendum – on Friday morning.

Mr Johnson, who led the 2016 campaign to get the UK out of the EU, will attempt to strike an optimistic, non-triumphalist note in his message, stressing the need to bring all sides together.

“The most important thing to say tonight is that this is not an end but a beginning,” he will say.

“This is the moment when the dawn breaks and the curtain goes up on a new act. It is a moment of real national renewal and change.”

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Getty Images

Image caption

Tourists pose for pictures with Manneken Pis statue in Brussels

In his message, filmed in Downing Street, Mr Johnson will also say: “This is the dawn of a new era in which we no longer accept that your life chances – your family’s life chances – should depend on which part of the country you grow up in.

“This is the moment when we begin to unite and level up.”

Brexit Party MEPs, including Ann Widdecombe, left the European Parliament in Brussels led by a bagpiper.

Supporters of the EU are expected to take part in a procession through Whitehall at 15:00 GMT to “bid a fond farewell” to the union.

Later, Brexiteers will gather in Parliament Square for a celebration, and a clock counting down to the moment the UK leaves the EU will be projected on to Downing Street.

Buildings along Whitehall will be lit up and Union flags will be flown from all the poles in Parliament Square.

A new commemorative 50p coin will also come into circulation to mark the UK’s withdrawal.

However, Big Ben will not chime at 23:00 GMT due to ongoing renovation works – despite a fundraising effort led by Conservative MP Mark Francois.

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Media captionUrsula von der Leyen: “It’s a very emotional day”

In Brussels, the UK flag will be removed from the EU institutions, with one Union flag expected to be consigned to a museum.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen paid tribute to UK citizens who had “contributed to the European Union and made it stronger”.

“It is the story of old friends and new beginnings now,” she said. “Therefore it is an emotional day, but I’m looking forward to the next stage.”

Upcoming negotiations would be “fair” but each side would fight for its interests, she added.

Irish Deputy Prime Minister Simon Coveney told Sky News he thought the EU and UK would struggle to reach a trade deal during the 11-month transition period, as there was “too much to agree”.

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Media captionConfused by Brexit jargon? Reality Check unpacks the basics.

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

And in a speech in Edinburgh later, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is expected to say Scotland has been “taken out of the European Union against the wishes of the overwhelming majority” of its people.

She will argue that Scotland has “the prospect of a brighter, better future as an equal, independent European nation”.

For Labour, Mr Corbyn, who is due to stand down as party leader in April, said the UK was “at a crossroads”.

“We can build a truly internationalist, diverse and outward-looking Britain,” he added. “Or we can turn inwards, and trade our principles, rights and standards to secure hastily arranged, one-sided, race-to-the-bottom trade deals with Donald Trump and others.”

Mr Corbyn promised Labour would “hold the government to account every step of the way”.

Liberal Democrat acting leader Sir Ed Davey vowed his pro-EU party would “never stop fighting” to have the “closest possible relationship” with Europe.

He said it would be on a “damage-limitation exercise to stop a hard Brexit hurting British people”.

Cabinet minister Michael Gove told BBC Breakfast he was “relieved” and “delighted” that Brexit was “at last coming to pass”.


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