Thousands of avid Brexiteers flocked to London’s Parliament Square hours before the clock struck 11pm, the moment when Britain formally withdrew from the EU following more than three years of intense legal and political wrangling.
The jubilant crowd rang bells, banged on drums, and waved Union Jacks, while a cart featuring a cardboard cutout of a ‘Little Ben’ clock – along with such slogans as “Brexited,” ” Democracy & Liberty” and “Save Our Sovereignty” – led the procession.
The gathering cheered as one of Brexit’s long-time champions, former UKIP head and Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage, turned up at the bash, speaking to thunderous applause as he congratulated the supporters of the Brexit cause.
The huge crowd also assembled outside UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s residence at 10 Downing Street, temporarily embellished with a giant countdown clock that was projected onto its facade with one hour left to go until Brexit became a reality.
Johnson himself called Brexit an “astonishing moment of hope” for the UK, while vowing to “bring this country together.”
Sentiments were much more somber in Scotland, however, where scores of people swarmed the square in front of the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh to hold a vigil.
With many waving Scottish as well as EU flags and holding candles to set the mood, the crowd then broke into a rendition of a traditional Scottish song, Auld Lang Syne, typically used to mark sad farewells – accompanied by bagpipes.
Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon shared in the mood of many of her compatriots, who overwhelmingly rejected Brexit, voting to stay in the EU in the 2016 referendum. Sturgeon, who called Brexit “an affront to democracy,” thanked the EU for its support, posting a photo of the EU Commission building sporting an X-shaped message: “Europe loves Scotland.”