Britain on Saturday began an uncertain future outside the European Union, hours after the historic end to almost half a century of EU membership was greeted with a mixture of joy and sadness.
There were celebrations and tears across the country 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.
Almost nothing will change straight away, because of an 11-month transition period negotiated as part of the exit deal.
Britons will be able to work in and trade freely with EU nations until December 31, and vice versa, although the UK 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 at the moment of Brexit at 11 pm (2300 GMT) Friday — midnight in Brussels.
As Prime Minister Boris Johnson — a figurehead in the seismic 2016 referendum vote for Brexit — held a private party in his Downing Street office, a clock projected on the walls outside counted down the minutes to departure.
In an address to the nation, he hailed a “new era of friendly cooperation” with the EU while Britain takes a greater role on the world stage.
Johnson acknowledged there might be “bumps in the road ahead”, but predicted the country could make it a “stunning success”.
“The most important thing to say tonight is that this is not an end but a beginning,” he said in a televised address.
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