After nearly four years since the EU referendum in June 2016, Brexit Day is upon us.
Great Britain will finally cut its ties with the European Union on 31 January after that date was repeatedly delayed.
The original Brexit date was 29 March 2019. But that was pushed back to 31 October and then 31 January 2020, 10 months after it was first scheduled.
To the delight of Brexiters, at 11pm tonight Prime Minister Boris Johnson will conclude the first stage of Brexit after the EU voted to approve the UK’s departure.
Yet a plethora of unanswered questions persist over the UK’s future relationship with the EU. Johnson has given himself until the end of 2020 to reach a trade deal with the bloc, but EU leaders have warned this is not enough time.
While Remainers fret about the end of free movement and the future of the UK economy, Brexiters are adamant the benefits outweigh any risks.
Whichever side of the debate you stand on, Brexit will go down as a defining moment in the history of the United Kingdom.
So it’s no surprise there are plenty of events planned to commemorate the big day. Here we list the ways the UK will mark the cutting of the cord with the EU.
Downing Street’s countdown clock
Number 10 will illuminate its black bricks with a light display. It is intended to symbolise the strength and unity of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Buildings around Whitehall will also light up as the Union Jack flag flies on every flag pole in Parliament Square.
A countdown clock will also be projected onto the Prime Minister’s residence from 10pm to mark the last hour of the UK’s membership of the EU.
Boris Johnson’s Brexit Day speech
Prime Minister Johnson will deliver a special address to the nation to mark the historic Brexit Day.
Johnson will reportedly ask the public to grasp the opportunity they voted for in the Brexit referendum.
He will also place emphasis on “unleashing the enormous potential of British people” as the country embarks on a new chapter. The PM will urge people to “come together and move forward united”.
He will add: “We will mobilise the full breadth of our new freedoms- from encouraging technology and innovation to signing new free trade deals around the world.
“As we maximise all the freedoms the British people voted to grasp, we must also work to heal divisions and reunite our communities.”
Treasury chancellor Sajid Javid has unveiled a commemorative 50p Brexit coin to celebrate the UK’s departure.
Bearing the inscription “Peace, prosperity and friendship with all nations”, the coin also has the date 31 January inscribed on it.
Around 3m Brexit coins will enter circulation around the UK on Friday, with a further 7m following later this year. Boris Johnson will be the first to receive one, according to reports.
The coin is being boycotted by a large number of Remainers which include Alistair Campbell and Lord Adonis.
But Javid said: “Leaving the European Union is a turning point in our history and this coin marks the beginning of this new chapter.”
The government was forced to melt down 1m 50p Brexit coins featuring the wrong departure date last year when the 31 October date was delayed.
The Treasury later confirmed UK taxpayers will foot the bill.
Javid’s new coins face a boycott over punctuation. Author Philip Pullman criticised it for failing to use an Oxford comma, which is used after the penultimate item in a list of three or more items.
Leave Means Leave party in Parliament Square
Brexit Party founder Nigel Farage won the green light to hold Brexit Day celebrations in Parliament Square tomorrow.
The Westminster festivities will take place between 9pm and 11pm, hosted by Farage’s erstwhile Brexit campaign Leave Means Leave.
Comedians and bands will supposedly make an appearance. And speakers will include Ann Widdecombe, Wetherspoons boss Tim Martin, Julia Hartley-Brewer and Brexit Party chair Richard Tice.
An email to Brexit Party supporters earlier this week reportedly read:
There are just three days to go until Brexit! The plans for our Brexit Celebration event in Parliament Square on January 31 are set. It is a once-in-a-lifetime party and we want it to go as smoothly as possible.
You do not need to have registered your interest to attend as anyone can come along and join in this joyful occasion. All are welcome to join us in marking this constitutional milestone in friendship and unity.
No Big Ben Brexit Day Bong
One thing that won’t be happening is Big Ben bonging in Brexit at 11pm tomorrow.
Brexiters raised £270,000 after officials said it would cost £500,000 to arrange for London’s famous bell to chime. It is currently cloaked in scaffolding amid renovation.
House of Commons authorities refused to sanction government funding to pay £50,000 per bong.
Organisers of the fundraiser, StandUp4Brexit, failed to convince the authorities to accept the public’s cash instead.
And Tory MP Mark Francois and co-organiser rebecca Ryan said they would donate the money to charity Help for Heroes instead.
“Every cloud has a silver lining and in this case it is that our military veterans that have been wounded in the service of their country will now receive a very substantial donation, thanks to your generosity.”
Wetherspoons cuts price of EU pints
British pub chain Wetherspoons will slash the prices of 10 pints on Brexit Day.
Aforementioned boss Tim Martin will cut prices of EU drinks like Becks, Peroni and Estrella from 31 January until 29 February.
All Wetherspoons pubs will run the promotion, as Martin said: “Many of our customers are keen to celebrate Brexit.
“At the same time we want to remain friends with our European neighbours and offer a range of drinks at an excellent price.
“In my opinion, there has been far too much political posturing in negotiations between the UK and the EU up until now.”
Sadiq Khan’s London is Open event
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has opened the doors of City Hall to offer EU citizens based in London free legal advice and emotional support.
EU citizens resident in the UK must apply for settled status by 30 June 2021. If successful, they can then apply for citizenship around 12 months later.
Visitors can arrive anytime between 5pm and 8pm today, the event’s Facebook page says. City Hall has urged people to try to get to the free event by 8pm for the mysterious guest speaker.
Khan spoke with City A.M. about Brexit, Uber and the 2020 London mayor elections in an exclusive interview today.
Remainer protest at the London Eye
A group of Remain-voting demonstrators will protest Brexit at the South Bank today.
The Shine a Light Through the Darkness protest in London will occur alongside similar demonstrations in Brighton and Bournemouth.
Activists will shine torch lights to highlight the negative impact they claim Brexit will have on the NHS and workers’ rights.
Scotland’s Sturgeon flag-flying
Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s First Minister, will fly the EU flag over the headquarters of the Scottish government headquarters.
The EU flag will continue flying even after the UK departs the bloc, Sturgeon has said.
It comes as Sturgeon’s SNP party presses the case for a second referendum on Scottish independence. Voters narrowly rejected independence in 2014, two years before the Brexit vote.
SNP politicians are set to attend “vigils around the country” today, it is reported.