Britain on Friday finally severed its turbulent half-century partnership with Europe, quitting the EU single market and customs union to go its own way four-and-a-half years after its shock vote to leave the bloc.
Brexit, which has dominated politics on both sides of the Channel since 2016, became a reality as Big Ben struck 11:00 pm (2300 GMT) in London, just as most of mainland Europe ushered in 2021.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson — the figurehead of the “Leave” campaign — described it as an “amazing moment” for the country and played up his upbeat narrative of a “Global Britain” unshackled from rules set in Brussels.
He vowed that post-Brexit Britain, despite being battered by a surge in coronavirus cases, would be an “open, generous, outward-looking, internationalist and free-trading” country.
“We have our freedom in our hands and it is up to us to make the most of it.”