The United Kingdom has officially left the European Union after 47 years of membership and more than three years after it voted to do so in a referendum.
The historic moment, which happened at 11pm local time on Friday, was marked by both celebrations and anti-Brexit protests.
In a message published on social media an hour before the exit time, Boris Johnson, the UK Prime Minister, vowed to bring the country together and “take us forward”.
“For many people, this is an astonishing moment of hope, a moment they thought would never come.
“And there are many of course who feel a sense of anxiety and loss.
“And then, of course, there is a third group – perhaps the biggest – who had started to worry that the whole political wrangle would never come to an end.
“I understand all those feelings and our job as the government – my job – is to bring this country together now and take us forward,” he said.
Noting that the EU has evolved in a direction that no longer suited the UK, Johnson said: “The most important thing to say tonight is that this is not an end but a beginning,” he said, and “a moment of real national renewal and change.”
The UK Prime Minister marked the departure by holding a cabinet meeting in Sunderland, the first city to declare in favour of Brexit when the 2016 results were announced.
Brexiteers partied in London’s Parliament Square, while candlelit vigils were held in Scotland, which voted to stay in the EU.
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Addressing hundreds of Brexit supporters at Parliament Square, Nigel Farage, the Brexit Party leader, said: “Let us celebrate tonight as we have never done before.
“This is the greatest moment in the modern history of our great nation.”
As the Union flag was being lowered at the European Union institutions in Brussels, Belgium, there was a pro-EU march at Whitehall to bid a “fond farewell” to the union.
In Northern Ireland, the campaign group Border Communities Against Brexit staged a series of protests in Armagh, near to the border with the Republic of Ireland.
Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, at the departure hour, tweeted a picture of the EU flag, adding: “Scotland will return to the heart of Europe as an independent country – #LeaveALightOnForScotland”
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Speaking in Cardiff, Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford said Wales, which voted to leave the EU, remained a “European nation”.
Most EU laws will continue to be in force in the UK – including the free movement of people – until 31 December, when the transition period comes to an end.
The UK voted to leave the EU after former prime minister David Cameron organised a referendum in June 2016, with the Leave campaign led by Johnson, the incumbent Prime Minister emerging victorious by 52 per cent to 48 per cent.