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Cheers and tears as UK ends 47 years of European Union membership

Saturday, February 1st 2020 - 08:55 UTC
Full article 3 comments
Thousands of people waving Union Jack flags packed London's Parliament Square to mark the moment of Brexit at 11pm - midnight in Brussels. Thousands of people waving Union Jack flags packed London's Parliament Square to mark the moment of Brexit at 11pm - midnight in Brussels.
Many pro-Europeans, including many of the 3.6 million EU citizens who made their lives in Britain, marked the occasion with solemn candlelit vigils. Many pro-Europeans, including many of the 3.6 million EU citizens who made their lives in Britain, marked the occasion with solemn candlelit vigils.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson, acknowledged there might be “bumps in the road ahead” but said Britain could make it a “stunning success”. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, acknowledged there might be “bumps in the road ahead” but said Britain could make it a “stunning success”.

Britain on Friday ended almost half a century of European Union membership, making a historic exit after years of bitter arguments to chart its own uncertain path in the world. There were celebrations and tears across the country as the EU's often reluctant member became the first to leave an organization set up to forge unity among nations after the horrors of World War II.

Thousands of people waving Union Jack flags packed London's Parliament Square to mark the moment of Brexit at 11pm - midnight in Brussels.

Many pro-Europeans, including many of the 3.6 million EU citizens who made their lives in Britain, marked the occasion with solemn candlelit vigils.

Brexit has exposed deep divisions in British society. One Brexit supporter set fire to an EU flag in central London. Away from the celebrations, many fear the consequences of ending 47 years of ties with their nearest neighbors.

It has also provoked soul-searching in the EU about its own future after losing 66 million people, a global diplomatic big-hitter and the clout of the City of London financial centre.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, a figurehead in the seismic 2016 referendum vote for Brexit, acknowledged there might be “bumps in the road ahead” but said Britain could make it a “stunning success”.

Johnson has promised to unite the island nation in a new era of prosperity, predicting a “new era of friendly cooperation” with the EU while Britain takes a greater role on the world stage.

EU institutions earlier began removing red, white and blue Union flags in Brussels ahead of a divorce that German Chancellor Angela Merkel called a “sea-change” for the bloc.

Britain's departure was sealed in an emotional vote in the EU parliament this week that ended with MEPs singing “Auld Lang Syne”, a traditional Scottish song of farewell.

But 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 Dec 31, and vice versa, although the UK will no longer be represented in the bloc's institutions.

But legally, Britain is out. And while the divorce terms have been agreed, Britain must still strike a deal on future relations with the EU, its largest trading partner.

Both will set out their negotiating positions Monday. “We want to have the best possible relationship with the United Kingdom, but it will never be as good as membership,” European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said in Brussels.

Britain resisted many EU projects over the years, refusing to join the single currency or the Schengen open travel area, and euro skeptics have long complained about Brussels bureaucracy.

Worries about mass migration added further fuel to the Brexit campaign while for some, the 2016 vote was a chance to punish the government for years of cuts to public spending.

But the result was still a huge shock. It unleashed political chaos, sparking years of toxic arguments that paralyzed parliament and forced the resignations of prime ministers David Cameron and Theresa May.

Johnson brought an end to the turmoil with last month's decisive election victory which gave him the parliamentary majority he needed to ratify his Brexit deal.

But Britons remain as divided as they were nearly four years ago, when 52% voted to leave and 48% voted to remain in the EU. In Scotland, where a majority voted to stay in 2016, Brexit has revived calls for independence and there were protests Friday outside parliament.

In Northern Ireland, where there are fears Brexit could destabilize a hard-won peace after decades of conflict over British rule, a billboard read: “This island rejects Brexit.”

From Saturday, Britain will be free to strike trade deals around the world, including with the United States.

Johnson has given himself just 11 months to negotiate a new partnership with the EU, covering everything from trade to security cooperation - despite warnings this is not enough time.

He also discussed with his ministers on Friday an aim to get 80% of Britain's commerce covered by free trade agreements within three years, a spokesman said.

US President Donald Trump is an enthusiastic supporter of Brexit, and his envoy to London on Friday hailed an “exciting new era”.

“America shares your optimism and excitement about the many opportunities the future will bring,” ambassador Woody Johnson said.

 

Categories: Economy, Politics, International.

Top Comments

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  • Livingthedream

    Farewell and adieu to you, Spanish Ladies
    Farewell and adieu to you, ladies of Spain;
    For we've received orders for to sail for old England
    And we may never see you fair ladies again

    Feb 01st, 2020 - 03:41 pm +1
  • Chicureo

    It now will be very interesting if Boris Johnson and Donald Trump can reach a trade agreement by the end of this year. It's amusing that liberals accuse the Americans of the wrong motives, as it's clearly a quick mutually benificial agreement will used as brutal leverage against the EU in what will be a major fight.

    It's good that the UK is able to forgo the anticipated tariff hammer of the USA.

    Feb 01st, 2020 - 04:44 pm 0
  • Marcos Alejandro

    Good bye UK

    https://imgflip.com/i/1poowj

    Feb 02nd, 2020 - 11:48 pm -1
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