It’s the first time a country has left the EU, and many in the bloc rued the day.
Britain begins the day as either a proud nation that has reclaimed its sovereignty, or with a diminished presence in Europe and the world. The European Union will have to bounce back from one of its biggest setbacks in its 62-year history to confront an ever more complicated world as its former member becomes a competitor, just across the English Channel.
It’s the first time a country has left the EU, and many in the bloc rued the day. In Brussels, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen lamented that “as the sun rises tomorrow a new chapter for our union of 27 will start.”
But she warned Brexit day would mark a major loss for the UK and said the island nation is heading for a lonelier existence.
“Strength does not lie in splendid isolation, but in our unique union.” Newspapers across the continent were marking the departure with headlines of ‘Adieu to Europe’ and ‘Bye-Bye!’ next to a Union Jack flag.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson delivered a pre-recorded address to the country an hour before departure, calling Brexit “not an end but a beginning”. The prime minister said Brexit would become “a moment of real national renewal and change”.