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Brexit will finally happen tonight

Reuters/London
Filed on January 31, 2020
brexit, united kingdom

(Reuters)

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has given little clue to what the future holds, promising only to restore confidence for people and businesses.

The United Kingdom leaves the European Union an hour before midnight on Friday, casting off into an uncertain Brexit future that also challenges Europe's post-World War II project of forging unity from the ruins of conflict.

After the twists and turns of the Brexit crisis, the country's most significant geopolitical move since the loss of empire could be an anti-climax of sorts: a transition period preserves membership in all but name until the end of 2020.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has given little clue to what the future holds, promising only to restore confidence for people and businesses.

"We'll be out of the EU, free to chart our own course as a sovereign nation," said Johnson, the New York-born face of the campaign to leave the EU.

But the June 2016 Brexit referendum showed a nation divided about more than Europe and triggered soul-searching about everything from secession and immigration to capitalism, empire and modern Britishness.

Strains exacerbated by Brexit could even lead to the break-up of the United Kingdom:

England and Wales voted to leave the bloc but Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to stay.

The EU, meanwhile, must bid farewell to 15 per cent of its economy, its biggest military spender and the City of London, the world's international financial capital.

Some will celebrate Brexit, some will weep - but many Britons will do neither.

At home, government advertisements proclaim the January 31 exit date while a newly minted 50-pence coin celebrates the end of 47 years of membership by imploring "peace, prosperity and friendship with all nations".

Brexiteers wanted bells to toll across the land but Big Ben will stand silent after a campaign to get it to 'bong for Brexit' failed; it was too expensive given repair work.

The protracted Brexit meltdown - some say breakdown - has left allies and investors puzzled by a country that was for decades touted as a confident pillar of Western economic and political stability.


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