Thousands of Brexit supporters waving the Union Jack, and others even dressed as the twelfth-century English King Richard the Lionheart, gathered in London’s Parliament Square Friday night for a massive celebration of the United Kingdom’s official exit from the European Union.
Meanwhile, police in Norwich, England, investigated “racist” flyers telling residents in order to have a “Happy Brexit Day,” they should “speak English” or go back to their home country so the local government could let British people live in their public housing apartments. And anti-Brexiteers in Scotland, which voted to remain in the EU in 2016, held solemn vigils instead of the more rowdy celebrations in London.
Following the historic departure, Nigel Farage, the leader of the Brexit Party, will travel to Washington Sunday in order to attend President Trump’s State of the Union address Tuesday. In a London speech, he shot down speculation he’d be joining Trump on his 2020 campaign trail – telling the crowd he’ll spend most of next year in the UK to ensure Prime Minister Boris Johnson delivers on Brexit policy proposals.
“The war is over,” Farage said in his speech. “This is the single most important moment in the modern history of our great nation…We have to make sure that we watch every step of this journey over the next 11 months and more and we will do that.”
Three and half years after the British public voted to leave the EU, Brexit was finally set into motion Friday night. The historic referendum vote was held months before Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Now an 11-month transition period will allow the UK to negotiate new deals on trade and security while following the bloc’s rules.
“We’re open for business from the rest of the world. We want unity, peace and stability,” Caroline Jones, of the Welsh Brexit Party, told the BBC. “That’s what we didn’t have because we were in limbo for three and a half years, so as well as it being exciting, it’s also a relief.”
A recording of Big Ben’s bells sounded when the departure became official at 11 p.m. London time when the clock struck midnight in Brussels, Belgium, where the EU is headquartered. The crowd belted “God Save the Queen,” as some were photographed setting fire to the European Union flag in the streets, others trampling on the bloc flag, covering it in a thick layer of mud and grass.
Meanwhile in Scotland, which voted to remain in the European Union during the 2016 referendum vote, solemn Brexit vigils were held in several cities, government buildings in Edinburgh were lit up in the EU’s blue and yellow, and the bloc’s flag continued to fly outside the Scottish Parliament.
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said Brexit was “a moment of profound sadness.” British flags were quietly removed from the bloc’s many buildings in Brussels.
On Sunday, police in Norfolk, England, launched an investigation“Happy Brexit Day” notices stuck to the doors in a 15-story public apartment building demanding residents speak English or get out following Friday’s departure from the European Union.
“We finally have our great country back… we do not tolerate people speaking other languages than English in the flats,” the flyers posted on the doors in Winchester Tower, a public housing building for people ages 55 and up, reportedly said, according to BBC. “We are not our own country again” and the “Queens English is the spoken tongue here.”
“If you do want to speak whatever is the mother tongue of the country you came from then we suggest you return to that place and return your flat to the council so they can let British people live here and we can return to what was normality before you infected this once great island,” the notices, which surfaced Friday before being taken down, read.
Residents and other demonstrators denounced the flyers as racist and protested outside the building Sunday, posting new notices reading: “Everybody is welcome in Norwich,” The Guardian reported.