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PM: There will be ‘bumps’, but Brexit can be ‘stunning success’

Boris Johnson has said there will be “bumps in the road” once Britain has left the EU, but expressed confidence that the “opportunity” of Brexit can be turned into a “stunning success”.

In a video message released by Downing Street ahead of Britain’s departure from the bloc at 11pm, the prime minister said it represented an “astonishing moment of hope” for many.

But he also acknowledged that there will be others who “feel a sense of anxiety and loss” at the UK’s 47-year membership of the union coming to an end.

People celebrate Britain leaving the EU on Brexit day in London
Brexit day has seen a mixture of celebrations and protests

Mr Johnson said he recognised those competing sentiments and that it was his job to “bring this country together now and take us forward”.

“The most important thing to say tonight is that this is not an end but a beginning,” the PM said.

“This is the moment when the dawn breaks and the curtain goes up on a new act in our great national drama.”

In a symbolic move, Mr Johnson held a cabinet meeting in Sunderland earlier, the first area to back Brexit when the results were announced on referendum night in 2016.

Back in Westminster, the PM has hosted a reception in Downing Street.

Guests include cabinet ministers, No 10 advisers and civil servants, officials who were involved in the Brexit negotiations, and supporters of the campaign to leave the EU.

Downing Street is being illuminated with a light show, while a new 50p coin to mark Brexit is entering circulation.

Brexit supporters carry flags and placards as they walk down Whitehall in central London on January 31, 2020 on the day that the UK formally leaves the European Union. - Britain on January 31 ends almost half a century of integration with its closest neighbours and leaves the European Union, starting a new -- but still uncertain -- chapter in its long history. (Photo by DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS / AFP) (Photo by DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP via Getty Images)
Brexit supporters have gathered in Parliament Square

Meanwhile, Brexit supporters have gathered for a party led by Nigel Farage on Parliament Square.

Earlier, pro-EU demonstrators took part in a procession through Whitehall.

A crowd also gathered across the road from Number 10, brandishing EU flags and anti-Brexit placards.

Pro-EU supporters carry flags and placards as they walk down Whitehall in central London
Pro-EU supporters marched down Whitehall

Candlelit vigils have taken place in Scotland, which voted to stay in the EU.

Leave a Light On gatherings have been staged in Aberdeen, Dundee, Glasgow, and Stirling, among other locations.

Participants want to send a message to the EU to keep open a place for Scotland, amid a renewed bid from the SNP for a second independence referendum.

The story of Brexit

The story of Brexit

In Northern Ireland, there have been a series of protests in Armagh, close to the border with the Republic of Ireland.

In Brussels, the UK flag will be removed from EU institutions. One Union flag is expected to be placed in a museum.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who will step down in April, said Britain was now “at a crossroads”.

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He said there could be an “internationalist, diverse and outward-looking Britain” or one that will “trade our principles, rights and standards to secure hastily arranged, one-sided, race-to-the-bottom trade deals with Donald Trump and others”.

Former PM David Cameron, who made the decision to call the EU referendum, said the government “can make a success of the choice that we made”.

“I wish the government well in all their endeavours,” he added.

David Cameron wishes the government well on the day Brexit comes into being

Cameron: ‘I always accepted the referendum result’

Once Britain has left the EU, it will enter into an 11-month transition period.

This time period, during which the UK will continue to follow EU rules and regulations, will be used to try to sort out the terms of the future relationship between the two sides.

Mr Johnson has vowed not to extend the transition period beyond 31 December, but senior EU figures have warned that striking a deal before then will be difficult.

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Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said Dublin would take a firm line in these post-Brexit trade discussions.

His deputy, Simon Coveney, earlier told Sky News that “Brexit is not done”.

On the negotiations about the future relationship, he said Mr Varadkar’s government would attempt to “get the best possible deal from an Irish perspective”.

The UK has had a bumpy ride with the EU since it joined the bloc

The UK’s turbulent time in the EU

But Mr Coveney added: “We don’t have much time to do it because Boris Johnson has tied his own hands in terms of setting a tight timeline to do that.”

This tough tone was repeated by European Council President Charles Michel.

He said the UK’s stated policy of not aligning with EU rules post-Brexit means it cannot expect the same levels of market access.

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European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, meanwhile, said relations would not be as close as when Britain was a member of the EU.

“We want to have the best possible relationship with the United Kingdom, but it will never be as good as membership,” she said.

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