Britain awakes to Brexit as London and EU gear up for tough talks
February 01 2020 05:26 PM
Brexit supporters wave Union flags as the time reaches 11 O'Clock, in Parliament Square, venue for t
Brexit supporters wave Union flags as the time reaches 11 O'Clock, in Parliament Square, venue for the Leave Means Leave Brexit Celebration in central London


The division that defined the run-up to Britain's departure from the European Union was still evident in the country's media on Saturday, with talk turning to the future relationship with the bloc.

Britain left the EU at 11 pm London time (2300 GMT), or midnight in Brussels, in a historic moment that was marked with jubilation from Brexiteers and sombre vigils from the pro-EU camp.

‘What next?’ asked the centre-left i newspaper, while The Telegraph said British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is ‘[ramping] up pressure’ for negotiating an agreement on future relations with Brussels.

‘Make leave, not war,’ said the pro-Brexit Sun, one of Britain's most popular tabloids. ‘Brexit got done,’ its rival, the Daily Mail, declared in its top online headline.

Little will change during the 11-month transitional phase following ‘Brexit Day,’ as the two sides discuss future arrangements for trade, security and political cooperation.

Officials in Brussels warn that the timeline is extremely ambitious, but Johnson has ruled out an extension.

The EU is set to lay out its negotiating position on Monday.

Johnson is ‘preparing to impose full customs and border checks on all European goods entering the UK after Brexit,’ The Telegraph reported.

‘The toughened approach ... is designed to give UK negotiators greater leverage against Brussels,’ the pro-Brexit newspaper said.

Johnson suggested previously that he could accept an EU-Canada-style free trade deal, The Times wrote on Friday.

This would remove almost all tariffs on manufacturing, agriculture and the fisheries trade, while protecting service industries.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told German broadcaster ARD the EU ‘will negotiate fairly but hard.’  The EU is the destination for close to half of British exports, giving the bloc a good starting point, she added late Friday.

Despite the in part tense atmosphere in central London, Friday night passed mainly peacefully throughout the country, police in London said. Only a handful of people were arrested. Five men were apprehended for offences including drunkenness and destruction of property.

In Glasgow, one man was arrested. Brexit fans and critics gathered in the Scottish city centre and were kept apart by police.

French President Emmanuel Macron addressed a letter to the British public published by the Times on Saturday. ‘This departure has to be a shock, because there is nothing trivial about it,’ he wrote.

Macron argued that British political leaders who blamed the EU ‘for all evils’ helped cause Brexit, but also the fact that the bloc is ‘seen as not effective enough, not protective enough, distant from the realities of daily life.’ 

He announced a trip to London in June, and voiced his commitment to Franco-British ties: ‘The Channel has never managed to separate our destinies; Brexit will not do so, either.’  A former head of the EU executive, Romano Prodi, speculated on Saturday that Britain would run into problems and rejoin the fold of the EU in 15 to 20 years, according to Italian news agency ANSA.

The EU launched a new delegation to represent the bloc's interests in Britain on Saturday, to be headed by Portuguese diplomat Joao Vale de Almeida, now the bloc's ambassador to Britain.

‘The new EU Delegation in London represents the EU in the United Kingdom,’ the embassy tweeted.

In Brussels, the EU institutions lowered the British flags at their buildings in low-key ceremonies overnight after the British delegation to the EU lowered the bloc's flag outside its premises.

Tributes to EU-British friendship continued to trickle in, with European Council President Charles Michel tweeting a video with a song by the British comedy group Monty Python.

‘Always look on the bright side!’ Michel wrote, a reference to a famous scene from the film ‘Life of Brian.’

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