The UK 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 23:00 GMT, was marked by both celebrations and anti-Brexit protests. Candlelit vigils were held in Scotland, which voted to stay in the EU, while Brexiteers partied in London’s Parliament Square.

Boris Johnson has vowed to bring the country together.

In a message released on social media an hour before the UK’s departure, the prime minister said: “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.”

He said some had worried the political “wrangle” would not end but it was his job to take the country forward.

Brexit parties were held in pubs and social clubs across the UK as the country counted down to its official departure. Thousands gathered in Parliament Square to celebrate Brexit, singing patriotic songs and cheering speeches from leading Brexiteers, including 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.”

In the 2016 exit referendum 52% UK voted for leaving EU while two out of four parts of the UK – Scotland and Northern Ireland –  voted to stay in the bloc.

Also most big cities voted to stay in the EU, while small towns and rural areas voted to leave the bloc.

In Northern Ireland, the campaign group Border Communities Against Brexit staged a series of protests in Armagh, near to the border with the Irish Republic. The Irish border – now the UK’s land border with the EU – was a major sticking point in the Brexit divorce talks.

NI and the Irish Republic “will continue to remain neighbors”, said NI First Minister Arlene Foster on RTÉ on Friday.

At 23:00 GMT, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon tweeted a picture of the EU flag, adding: “Scotland will return to the heart of Europe as an independent country – #LeaveALightOnForScotland”.

Ms. Sturgeon is calling for a new referendum on Scottish independence, arguing that Brexit is a “material change in circumstances”.

London, with more than one million EU citizens, in the 2016 referendum voted to stay in the EU.

Mayor Sadiq Hans said he was upset by the Brexit.

At the same time, he insisted that London would continue to welcome everyone, regardless of “your skin color, your flag color, your passport color”.

UK citizens will notice a few immediate changes now that the country is no longer in the European Union. Most EU laws will continue to be in force – including the free movement of people – until 31 December, when the transition period comes to an end.

The UK is aiming to sign a permanent free trade agreement with the EU, along the lines of the one the EU has with Canada. But European leaders have warned that the UK faces a tough battle to get a deal by that deadline. Former Brexit Secretary David Davis said agreeing to a trade deal was “not a charitable exercise, this is an exercise of both sides recognizing their own best interests”.

“From today, we are their [the EU’s] biggest export market,” he told the Today program.

 

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