LONDON (Reuters) – The United Kingdom leaves the European Union on Friday with a mixture of joy, anger and indifference, casting off into the unknown in one of the biggest blows yet to Europe’s attempt to forge unity from the ruins of World War Two.
The EU’s most powerful leaders, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron, cast Brexit – due at 2300 GMT – as a sad moment that was a turning point for Europe. The EU warned that leaving would be worse than staying.
In the United Kingdom’s most significant geopolitical move since its lost its empire, it turns its back on 47 years of membership and must begin charting its own course for generations to come.
At the stroke of midnight in Brussels, the EU will lose 15% of its economy, its biggest military spender and the world’s international financial capital – London.
Brexit supporters burned an EU flag outside Downing Street, where Prime Minister Boris Johnson lives. Some EU supporters were mocked by a larger group of Brexiteers nearby chanting “Bye-bye EU” and “Shame on you” to the tune of Auld Lang Syne.
“This is the moment when the dawn breaks and the curtain goes up on a new act,” said Johnson, one of the leaders of the “Leave” campaign in the 2016 referendum. “It is a moment of real national renewal and change.”
Johnson planned to celebrate with English sparkling wine and a distinctly British array of canapés including Shropshire blue cheese and Yorkshire puddings with beef and horseradish.
In Brussels, the Britain’s Union Jack was lowered at the EU council building and the bloc’s circle of 12 stars on a blue background was removed from outside the British embassy.