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It's Officially Over, Brexit Has Just Happened

There are celebrations and commiserations around Britain as 47 years of EU membership draws to a close.

The United Kingdom leaves the European Union with a mixture of joy, anger and indifference, casting off into the unknown in one of the biggest blows yet to Europe's attempt to forge unity from the ruins of World War II.

In a pre-recorded address to the nation, UK's Prime Minister Boris Johnson published  a video message hailing the "dawn of a new era", which ended  three-and-a-half years of debate after the referendum.

Johnson acknowledged that there would be those who felt “a sense of anxiety and loss,” but insisted that Britain’s exit from Europe was “not an end but a beginning.”

However, the EU's most powerful leaders, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron, cast Brexit as a sad moment that is a turning point for Europe.

The EU warned that leaving would be worse than staying.

In the UK's most significant geopolitical move since it lost its empire, the country turns its back on 47 years of membership and must begin charting its own course for generations to come.

Staff members take down the United Kingdom's flag from the Council of the European Union in Brussels on Brexit Day, January 31, 2020. Image: Getty

At the stroke of midnight in Brussels, the EU will lose 15 per cent of its economy, its biggest military spender and the world's international financial capital - London.

Brexit supporters burned an EU flag outside Downing St, where Prime Minister Boris Johnson lives.

Some EU supporters were mocked by a larger group of Brexiteers nearby chanting "Bye-bye EU" and "Shame on you" to the tune of Auld Lang Syne.

"This is the moment when the dawn breaks and the curtain goes up on a new act," said Johnson, one of the leaders of the "Leave" campaign in the 2016 referendum.

Pro Brexit Leave supporters gather in Westminster on Brexit Day as the UK prepares to leave the European Union on 31st January 2020 in London, England, United Kingdom. At 11pm on Friday 31st January 2020, The UK and N. Ireland will officially leave the EU and go into a state of negotiations as to the future arrangement and trade agreement, while adhering to EU rules until the end of 2020. (photo by Mike Kemp/In Pictures via Getty Images)

"It is a moment of real national renewal and change."

Johnson planned to celebrate with English sparkling wine and a distinctly British array of canapes including Shropshire blue cheese and Yorkshire puddings with beef and horseradish.

Image: Getty Images

In Brussels, Britain's Union Jack was lowered at the EU council building and the bloc's circle of 12 stars on a blue background was removed from outside the British embassy.

The final parting of the EU's most reluctant member is an anticlimax of sorts, with little to change until the end of 2020.

By then, Johnson has promised to strike a broad free trade agreement with the EU, the world's biggest trading bloc.

Merkel warned the negotiations "certainly won't be easy", cautioning London that if it deviated from the EU's rules then its access to the EU's market would be limited.

Macron said Britain could not expect to be treated the same way as when it was part of the club.

"You can't be in and out," Macron told the French in a televised address.

"The British people chose to leave the European Union. It won't have the same obligations, so it will no longer have the same rights."