Roundup: Brexit day marked by protests, celebrations across UK as division remains

Source: Xinhua| 2020-02-01 00:11:06|Editor: yan
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A demonstrator poses at the Parliament Square in London, Britain on Jan. 31, 2020. Britain will leave the European Union (EU) on Jan. 31, 2020. (Xinhua/Han Yan)

LONDON, Jan. 31 (Xinhua) -- Hours before the offical Brexit deadline, crowds begun to gather in Parliament Square in central London to mark Britain's exit from the European Union (EU) on Friday along with other planned celebrations and protests across the country.

After 47 years of membership, Britain is to exit the regional bloc at 11:00 p。m。 (2300 GMT)。 Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to hail "dawn of new era" on the historic night when he speaks to the whole country。

In a video message to be released at around 10 p.m. (2200 GMT), Johnson will promise that he would "bring this country together" and seek to eradicate inequalities between regions.

The prime minister and his cabinet are due to hold a symbolic meeting in strongly pro-leave Sunderland on Friday afternoon, marking the city's role as the first place to declare a leave vote on EU referendum night in 2016.

In another development, a series of protests have been planned along the Irish border in the final hours before Britain officially leaves the EU.

In Scotland, which voted to stay in the EU in the 2016 referendum, candlelit vigils are planned.

Protests are also expected in the British capital, where some protesters were seen in the downtown area.

Meanwhile in Northern Ireland, anti-Brexit campaigners will hold a demonstration at Stormont, seat of the Northern Ireland Assembly, on Friday afternoon. Brexit backers will later hold a celebration party at the gate of Stormont from 10:30 p.m. (2230 GMT) for a countdown to 11:00 p.m. (2300 GMT).

Besides, the Leave a Light On gatherings are taking place in Aberdeen, Dundee, Glasgow and Stirling, among other locations, and participants intend to send a message to the EU to keep open a place for Scotland, local media reported.

At the other side of the English Channel, a sense of sorrow has been felt on the Grand Place in Brussels, seat of the EU headquarters, as Britain prepares to end its nearly half-century EU membership.

Followed by a transition period, the Friday night will bring very little in the way of tangible change. Among those changes, British Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay will become a backbench member of the parliament -- at least until an imminent cabinet reshuffle, said the English newspaper The Guardian.

Labour shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer, one of the frontrunners to become the new Labour leader, called for Jan。 31 to be marked as a new political beginning。

"Now the leave/remain divide must end," he wrote in an article for the Guardian newspaper Thursday. "Defining people by how they voted in June 2016 merely upholds a divide that we must overcome."

"There are no leavers or remainers anymore...In 2024 there will be no leave or remain constituencies," he said.

For the Liberal Democratic's acting leader Ed Davey, Jan。 31 would be "a heartbreaking day" for his party。

"I am determined that pro-Europeans can and must play a leading role in our country's future 。。。 Britain's European story does not end tomorrow," Davey said in a speech in Manchester Thursday。

Although Britain will no longer be an EU member as the day closes, the clock will start ticking on a new deadline of Dec. 31, the end of an agreed transition period starting from Feb. 1.

During the period, Britain will continue to obey EU rules and pay money into the EU budget. Johnson has repeatedly said that he will not allow the transition period to be extended beyond Dec. 31.

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