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Brexit as it happened: A new era begins as the UK leaves the European Union

A man waves Union Jack flags from a BMW Isetta as he drives past Brexit supporters gathering in Parliament Square, central London, on January 31, 2020.
A man waves Union Jack flags from a BMW Isetta as he drives past Brexit supporters gathering in Parliament Square, central London, on January 31, 2020. © Daniel Leal-Olivas, AFP

After 47 years in the bloc – and three and a half years after a 2016 referendum narrowly voted for Brexit – the United Kingdom officially left the European Union on Friday at midnight Brussels time. FRANCE 24 covered the countdown to Britain's exit and the EU's first day as a 27-member bloc in this liveblog. Scroll through to re-live the events as they happened.

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  • There were celebrations in some quarters and tears in others as Britain became the first nation to leave the EU bloc, established to create unity across the Continent after World War II. 
  • Brexit has exposed deep divisions in British society and many fear the end of close, even privileged, trade ties with their nearest neighbours. French President Emmanuel Macron described Brexit as a "historic warning sign" that should force the EU and its remaining nations of more than 440 million people to stop and reflect.
  • In an address to the nation, Prime Minister Boris Johnson acknowledged there might be "bumps in the road ahead". But he said Britain could also make it a "stunning success". 
  • EU institutions began removing Britain's red, white and blue Union Jack flags in Brussels ahead of the official departure. Britain's exit was sealed in an emotional vote in the EU Parliament this week that ended with MEPs singing "Auld Lang Syne", a traditional Scottish song of farewell.
  • Little will change right away because of an 11-month-long transition period negotiated as part of the exit deal. (FRANCE 24 with AFP, REUTERS)

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