Image Credit: BBC
As the clock struck eleven on the night of the 31st January, Britain officially left the European Union. Nearly four years after the historic result of the 2016 referendum and 47 years since the nation joined the organisation, the UK now embarks on a new chapter of its history outside of Europe.
The Prime Minister, achieving what he pledged to do in the recent election, regaled rhetoric of a new era and a brighter tomorrow. Celebrations occurred in Parliament square as well as local pubs and clubs acting host to Brexit parties. Further up North, Scotland, who voted to stay in the EU, did not join in the festivities, instead holding vigils and anti Brexit protests.
Johnson did acknowledge this, recognising that for many this is a night of sadness, thus promising to take the country forward together. Scotland’s reaction makes it clear that “getting Brexit done” may not be the end to the Prime Minister’s challenges, but will instead present new ones as the country’s union remains vulnerable.
French President Emmanuel Macron appeared to echo Scotland’s sentiments revealing his great sadness in the exit. In an open letter, he wrote how he understood how millions of Britons still felt attached to the EU. He explained that while the UK was leaving the EU it would remain, for him, a part of Europe. In response to this, the EU Parliament's Brexit co-ordinator, Mr Verhofstadt, arranged for an image of a gold star on a blue background to be projected on to the White Cliffs of Dover, underneath was the caption “this is our star look after it for us”.
The task, however, is not yet complete as months of negotiation still remain. The UK will now enter a transition period for 11 months until the 31st December during which the specific arrangements of the divorce from the union shall be decided. There is much to sort out, but the UK has laid out a free trade agreement, issues of security and fishing legislation as a priority. The hope is to agree on a trade deal similar to the one held between the EU and Canada.
In the coming days, Johnson and the EU are expected to lay out their opening bids for the coming talks. Johnson remains unmoved in his stance that this will not continue past the end of the current year.
On the other side of the political spectrum, candidate for Labour leader, Emily Thornberry, raises concerns over how the discussions will go, claiming that no-deal is still a very real threat. However, alongside Lisa Nandy and Rebecca Long-Bailey, Keir Starmer, who still appears to be leading the polls in the leadership race, expressed the need to move on from the debate for the sake of the party.
There remains uncertainty surrounding what a Britain outside of Europe will look like. Nonetheless, the pre-recorded bongs of Big Ben that appeared on the front of Number 10 at 11pm chimed in the new chapter of British history that will, for better or worse, now be written.