Britain is finally leaving the European Union. Now what?



Britain's Union Jack flag flies in front of Big Ben in London, on Jan. 27, 2020.

At the stroke of 11 pm London time on Jan. 31, the United Kingdom will formally leave the European Union (12 pm in Brussels, where the now 27-member bloc is headquartered; 6 pm ET). It’s the first time a country has left the EU. 

In some respects, it’s the end of the U.K’s 47-year participation in a project that grew out of the ashes of a Europe wracked by the humanitarian and economic stresses and strains of World War II. But the exit process is not completely done and dusted. Here’s what’s happening with Brexit, and what comes next.   

Marking the occasion but few celebrations 

The authorities have been careful to organize a series of toned-down events rather than outright festivities. This reflects the deep divisions in the county over Brexit.

Among the initiatives: A commemorative 50 pence (65 cents) coin will come into circulation. It will say “peace, prosperity and friendship with all nations.” Prime Minister Boris Johnson will address the nation, saying, among other things that “Brexit is not an end but a beginning”; a chance for Britain to reclaim its national sovereignty. Not everyone agreed with that sentiment. There will be a light display in Downing Street – Johnson’s official office and residence – including a clock counting down from 10 pm, but Big Ben will not chime out. Other buildings around Whitehall, home to many U.K. government offices in London, will also be lit up and Union Jack flags will line Parliament Square and the Mall.


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