More than three and a half years after Britain voted to leave the European Union (EU), Brexit has finally happened.
At midnight Brussels time on Friday, British flags were removed from EU offices, and the EU flag was lowered on the British premises, marking the nation’s official departure from the EU and ending its 47-year membership.
Last week, European Council President Charles Michel and Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, signed the U.K.’s withdrawal agreement.
EU legislators overwhelmingly voted to approve the agreement on Wednesday. The EU is now bidding farewell to 15 per cent of its economy, its biggest military spender and the city of London, the world’s international financial capital.
“We will always love you and you will never be far,” von der Leyen said on Wednesday.
“Things will inevitably change but our friendship will remain,” Michel wrote in a post on Twitter. “Look forward to writing this new page together.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the federal government is “very confident” there will minimal disruptions related to trade, investment and other ties between Canada and the U.K following Brexit.
Britain’s departure comes almost four years after a narrow majority of Britons voted in favour of leaving the EU.
During the 2016 referendum, 17.4 million respondents — or 52 per cent — opted to leave the pact. Forty-eight per cent voted to remain.
What followed was years of negotiations, wherein U.K. lawmakers repeatedly defeated attempts from then-prime minister Theresa May and her successor Johnson to push through the Brexit legislation.
The logjam was finally broken last month when Johnson’s Conservative Party won the Dec. 12, 2019 election and formed a majority government.