Fireworks and song as Brexit bastion parties

Morley (United Kingdom) (AFP) –


Leave voters in Brexit-backing Morley got ready to celebrate Britain's departure from the EU on Friday with fireworks and "God Save The Queen" belting out from a sound system.

"Tonight is my big Brexit bash," Conservative MP Andrea Jenkyns told AFP at her constituency office in Morley, a suburb of Leeds in Yorkshire, northern England.

Britain leaves the European Union at 11:00 pm (2300 GMT) after 47 years in the fold -- the last three of which were dominated by wrangling over when and how the kingdom would eventually leave.

Jenkyns set about organising a big party, in an area where nearly 60 percent backed Brexit in the seismic 2016 referendum vote to leave.

"We are in Brexit heartlands up in Yorkshire, and everything happens in London. And I think it's good to mark the moment by having something here in my constituency," she said.

Around 400 people were expected to attend the shindig filled with live music, speeches and a countdown to 11:00pm marked by fireworks.

Jenkyns was even planning to sing a number herself.

- 'We don't need Europe' -

Morley is a contender for England's most patriotic town, holding huge celebrations on the national Saint George's Day in April.

The market town's noted natives include World War I prime minister H.H. Asquith and "Bridget Jones" author Helen Fielding.

On its main shopping street, decorated with small British flags, Brexit voters voiced relief and satisfaction, after years of frustration in which ardent "remainers" tried various tactics to block and even overturn the referendum result.

"I am just pleased it's happening," said pensioner Michael Benn, 73.

"We were told by Brussels what we were going to do. It is going to change."

While Friday may be historic, the real departure is not set to take place until the end of the year, when the post-Brexit transition period ends.

In the interim, Britain will still adhere to EU rules and regulations, though without a seat at the table.

But for many, getting to Brexit day itself is the main thing.

"The last four years have been a right cock-up," said Raymond Stott, 66. "I am just glad it's all over. We will look after ourselves. We don't need Europe."

- Sense of relief -

Prime Minister Boris Johnson will not be gracing the party with his presence. His visit to Morley in September did not go down well.

The Brexit-backing new premier seemingly thought he was on a victory stroll on friendly turf.

However, he got a dose of Yorkshire straight-talking, with some urging him to get back to negotiating an exit deal with Brussels while others politely asked him to get out of town.

The December snap general election called to resolve the Brexit impasse was a different story, as his Conservative Party won over many voters in traditional Labour seats in northern and central England, where Johnson's "Get Brexit done" mantra struck a chord.

Jenkyns' majority jumped from four percent to 22.

Johnson will mark the historic moment with his team at his Downing Street office.

His mission over the next five years is to find a way to heal the divisions in Britain exposed by Brexit.

In Morley, Chris Frost said: "As a church pastor I get to speak to different people and there's very differing opinions.

"It has really caused a lot of kind of disagreement among even friends. I think now there's a sense of relief," the 37-year-old said.

"I am very happy that people can celebrate what they voted for."