LONDON (AP) — The Latest on Britain’s departure Friday night from the European Union:
Thousands of Brexit supporters are celebrating in London’s Parliament Square as they count down the minutes until Britain’s historic departure from the European Union.
The square was awash in Union Jack flags as British revelers sang the patriotic song “Land of Hope and Glory.”
They also watched a montage of moments from Britain’s 47-year EU membership on a big screen, booing at the appearance of pro-EU politicians and cheering when Brexit champion Nigel Farage appeared onscreen. Farage is to address the crowd just before Britain officially leaves the EU at 11 p.m. Friday.
Elsewhere in Britain, others have expressed sadness that their country will be the first to ever leave the EU, reducing the bloc to 27 nations.
Candlelit vigils were being held in several Scottish cities and the EU flag will not be lowered outside the Scottish Parliament on Friday night. Lawmakers there voted to keep it as a symbol of their opposition to Brexit.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says Brexit is a chance to make Britain a better place, “whatever the bumps in the road ahead.”
In a pre-recorded address broadcast on social media an hour before Britain’s historic exit from the European Union on Friday night, Johnson said his government would use the powers it was reclaiming from Brussels to make Britain a more equal and dynamic place.
Johnson insisted that post-Brexit Britain would be “simultaneously a great European power and truly global in our range and ambitions.” He said “we want this to be the beginning of a new era of friendly cooperation between the EU and an energetic Britain.”
Britain is due to leave the European Union at 11 p.m. (2300 GMT) after 47 years of membership. It will become the first nation to leave the bloc, cutting the EU’s membership to 27 nations.
Bidding a sad adieu to the first country to leave the European Union, French President Emmanuel Macron called Brexit a “historic alarm signal” that should force the European Union to improve itself.
He insisted that European citizens “more than ever” need a united Europe, to defend their interests in the face of superpowers China and the United States, and to cope with challenges like climate change, migration and technological upheaval.
“This departure is a shock,” Macron said in a national televised address Friday, just hours before Britain leaves the EU. “It is a historic alarm signal that must be heard in each of our countries, be heard by the whole of Europe and make us think.”
He slammed the “lies, exaggeration, simplifications,” that marked Britain’s 2016 Brexit campaign, and said “we have, too often, made Europe a scapegoat for our own difficulties.”
But he also called for a “clearer European project” that is simpler and more relevant to its citizens.
“It’s a sad day, let’s not hide it,” he said. “But it is a day that must also lead us to do things differently.”
Macron said he would go soon to post-Brexit Britain in hopes of building a new relationship that is “as close as possible.”
In a symbolic move, the EU’s blue flag has been taken down from the U.K.’s permanent representation in Brussels, which is close to the EU headquarters.
On the day high on symbolism, the U.K.’s Union Jack flag is set to be taken down from the EU Council and Parliament buildings later Friday.
After 47 years, Britain is leaving the EU on Friday night, becoming the first of the bloc’s 28 nations to do so.
Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said the European Union must now “look ahead and take the next step in our relationship” with Britain after the U.K. ends its 47-year membership in the bloc.
Lofven says “never before has a country left the EU, and I deeply regret that the UK is doing it now.”
He said “we will continue to have close ties with the British — both from the Swedish side and the EU. It is important for our economy, for our security and for our common development in Europe.”
In neighboring Denmark, the Danish, Finnish, Swedish and French European Affairs ministers met Friday in Copenhagen and expressed their regret for Brexit while respecting the sovereign decision of the United Kingdom.
They vowed “to work towards a deep, comprehensive and balanced future relationship with the UK that ensures a level playing field.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel says negotiations on Britain’s future relationship with the European Union won’t be easy and is vowing to help make the EU successful after Brexit.
Merkel said in a video message released by her office that Britain’s departure from the EU at 11:00 p.m. Friday “is a deep break for us all, the 27 European Union member states and for Germany.”
She stressed that “Germany wants to remain a close partner and friend of Britain, because we are united by common values.”
Once Brexit takes effect, Britain enters a transition period in which it will negotiate the terms of a new relationship with the EU and its 27 remaining members. Merkel said she hopes a good long-term agreement emerges “as quickly as possible.”
Underlining the importance of continued EU unity, Merkel said “these negotiations will certainly not be easy” and stressed that much depends on how closely aligned Britain wants to stay with the bloc.
She said: “The European Union is going into these negotiations in good spirit but also representing its own interests, and Britain will do the same.”
The head of Gibraltar’s government says the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union “will forever live in history as a very sad day.”
Gibraltar Chief Minister Fabien Picardo said the speck of British territory on Spain’s southern tip is departing the EU on Friday night “with a heavy heart, with sadness.”
In the U.K.’s 2016 Brexit referendum, 96% of voters in Gibraltar supported remaining in the EU.
Gibraltar’s economy relies heavily on connections to the EU and Spain. About 15,000 people live in Spain and work in Gibraltar, most of them EU nationals. They make up about half of Gibraltar’s labor force.
A lot is also at stake for Spain, which exported 1.5 billion euros of goods to Gibraltar in 2018. Gibraltar was ceded to Britain in 1713 but Spain still claims sovereignty over it.
More than two dozen international online gambling companies operate out of Gibraltar, lured by its low taxes and unimpeded access to the EU’s single market. The gambling companies account for around 25% of Gibraltar’s economy.
Picardo plans to attend a brief midnight ceremony on the border with Spain, when the EU flag will be lowered and the British Commonwealth flag raised.
He said that during the ceremony the EU’s anthem — Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” will be played.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan says he is “heartbroken” about Britain’s imminent departure from the European Union and wants to reassure European citizens living in the British capital they are valued friends and family members.
“I’m of the generation who has seen our European neighbors as friends and allies,” Khan told The Associated Press hours before Brexit becomes official Friday night.
“Previous generations looked upon them with suspicion,” the mayor said. “And the key thing I’m determined to make sure happens is, going forward, we will carry on as a city being open-minded, out-looking, pluralistic and welcoming to our EU friends.”
Khan has long argued that Britain would be better off remaining inside the EU. He said Friday he was proud that Londoners voted overwhelmingly in the 2016 Brexit referendum to keep the U.K. as an EU member.
Khan also rebuffed speculation that London would work to become a lightly regulated tax haven in the post-Brexit era.
The European Union’s parliament will have fewer lawmakers after the United Kingdom’s departure from the bloc, 705 compared to 751.
The European Parliament says that 27 of the U.K.’s 73 seats have been redistributed among remaining member nations. The other 46 seats are being set aside in case new countries are admitted into the EU.
The United Kingdom is officially leaving the bloc late Friday, ending a 47-year commitment to EU institutions.
The European Parliament said the redistribution of seats takes into account the size of the population in each of the 27 remaining nations, “as well as the need for a minimum level of representation for European citizens in the smaller ones.”‘
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