Remainers and Leavers alike are set to mark Brexit day at a series of events across the nation, with a series of anti-Brexit protests planned in Northern Ireland ahead of the UK’s formal exit from EU at 11pm.

Boris Johnson said the day would signal “the dawn of a new era”, but Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon has set out “next steps” in her bid to hold another vote on independence – saying she could not rule out a “consultative” referendum.

It comes as the prime minister is said to be ready to call for a “Canada-style”, tariff-free agreement with the EU, while the Australian government has expressed its hope of wrapping up a post-Brexit trade deal this year.

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2020-01-31T10:25:11.000Z

How travel to EU will change at end of the year

As we formally leave the EU, British travellers to countries inside the bloc will initially enjoy exactly the same privileges as they did before Brexit.

But the government has now revealed more about the scale of changes that will take effect at the end of the implementation period at the end of 2020. 

Our travel correspondent Simon Calder has taken a closer look at all you need to know.


2020-01-31T09:53:09.826Z

Nicola Sturgeon not ruling out ‘consultative’ referendum on Scottish independence

Scotland’s first minister has been setting out the “next steps” on her bid for another referendum on independence.

Sturgeon said she would do all she could to secure a referendum, but admitted there were no “clever wheezes” to get there given the refusal of Boris Johnson’s government to hand over powers to Holyrood to hold a vote.

“It’s legality must be beyond doubt,” she said on another formal plebiscite.

On the idea of staging a “consultative referendum” without UK government approval, she suggested the matter could be tested to the courts. “I am not ruling that out – but the outcome would be uncertain.”

Sturgeon speaking to SNP activists in Edinburgh (Reuters)


2020-01-31T09:39:11.850Z

UK seeking Canada-style deal – as Gove admits fully frictionless trade with EU impossible

Michael Gove has warned businesses they will face greater friction at borders with some “bureaucratic processes” in post-Brexit trade with Brussels.

In a frank admission, the cabinet minister said it would be impossible to secure fully frictionless trade with the EU without accepting its rules and laws.

He is said to be eyeing a basic trade deal similar to Canada’s agreement with the EU, a model which was rejected by Theresa May in favour of a bespoke agreement.

Asked if he could guarantee frictionless trade, Gove told BBC Breakfast: “No. We want trade to be as frictionless as possible but the EU is clear that you can only have fully frictionless trade if you accept all their rules, you accept all their laws, you are subordinate to their judges, you are subordinate to their political structures.”


2020-01-31T09:32:17.620Z

Sadness, joy and nifty new music on Brexit day

Caroline Lucas, the Green party’s only MP, tweeted: “Like many I’m feeling such sadness today. But endings are also beginnings.”

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan stated: “To the one million EU citizens that contribute so much to our city: you are Londoners, you are welcome here, & that will never change.”

Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage, meanwhile, couldn’t help but gloat: “At last the day comes when we break free. A massive victory for the people against the establishment.”

Count Binface, the man who stood against Boris Johnson in his Uxbridge constituency, has marked the big day with this handy explainer and nifty piece of music.


2020-01-31T09:17:49.483Z

‘Bre-entry’: Could Britain rejoin the EU?

Our associate editor Sean O’Grady has taken a look at whether it’s possible to dream of the United Kingdom back inside the European Union again one day.

“It is not unthinkable that the EU would become less a political union and more the kind of Europe of nation states the British always preferred,” he writes.

“A new looser EU, dropping free movement of labour, restoring national vetoes and liberalising its markets to the wider world, might well be one the British would love to be part of.”

Read more here:


2020-01-31T09:13:55.773Z

Australia can negotiate trade deal ‘as soon as UK ready to start’

The Australia government is aiming to wrap up a trade agreement with post-Brexit UK by the end of the year, a government minister has said.

Trade minister Simon Birmingham said Canberra was looking to an agreement which “essentially eliminated tariffs, quotas, trade barriers as much as is possible”. He said the country was ready to go “as soon as the UK was ready to start”.

Birmingham, speaking on ABC Radio Adelaide, said Brexit has felt like “a never-ending story” but added there was desire to strike an agreement.

He added: “Australia would love to see an agreement that essentially eliminated tariffs, quotas, trade barriers as much as is possible.

“But of course it’s a negotiation and that will depend upon the perspective that the UK take. Now, there’s goodwill on both sides to get this agreement done quickly.


2020-01-31T09:06:24.890Z

‘Farewell, not goodbye’: Papers mark Brexit day 

Newspapers have set aside their front pages to mark the UK’s departure from the EU. Some papers lead on the uncertainty facing the UK in the coming years, with the i deeming Brexit a “leap into the unknown” and The Guardian calling it “the biggest gamble in a generation”.

The Financial Times says that Britain leaves with a “mixture of optimism and regret”. Those papers which support and have campaigned for Brexit strike a momentous tone, with The Daily Mail hailing “a new dawn for Britain” and The Sun claiming: “Our time has come.” 

The daily edition of The Independent leads on the question of whether Britain may one day rejoin the EU (which I’ll post more on shortly).


2020-01-31T08:52:17.433Z

Brexit day to be greeted with both protests and celebrations

Anti-Brexit campaigners will hold a demonstration at Stormont on Friday afternoon, before Brexit-backers later hold a celebration party at the gates of the seat of Northern Ireland’s devolved government ahead of the countdown to 11pm.

As the moment draws closer, there will be also protests at six points along the Irish border by the organisation Border Communities Against Brexit, from Carrickarnon just south of Newry to Aughnacloy in Co Tyrone, Aghalane and Blacklion in Co Fermanagh, the Strabane/Lifford border, and Bridgend in Co Londonderry.

Last September, the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) announced that a contingency plan was in place to restrict police leave following the previously planned October 31 Brexit Day.

In London, pro-Europe supporters are expected to march through Whitehall around 3pm. The civil rights group New Europeans is to host a discussion about the rights of EU citizens in the UK. This will be followed by a candlelit vigil outside Europe House on Smith Square, Westminster, in the evening.

Nigel Farage will lead the celebrations with a rally in central London on Friday evening. The Leave Means Leave Brexit Celebration at Parliament Square will feature “singalong hymns”.

While Big Ben will remain silent, despite a high-profile campaign fuelled by Boris Johnson for repair works to be halted, the gathered crowds will count down to 11pm.

In Scotland a series of “leave the light on” candlelit vigils will be held tonight in cities across the country for pro-EU supporters hoping to re-join the bloc one day.

Steve Bray and other anti-Brexit protesters outside parliament on Thursday night (Getty)


2020-01-31T08:36:22.723Z

Brussels lights up its main square in Union Jack colours

The Belgian capital has laid on a festival of Britishness to say goodbye to the UK ahead of Brexit.

The city’s central square, the Grand Place, was lit up in Union Jack colours while bands played British music. City authorities rented a real-life black London taxi, and also dressed two city employees up as Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson to pose for selfies with visitors.

Busby-hatted redcoats were posted by the entrance of the city hall, while revellers posed for photographs with a replica red telephone box.

And the Manneken Pis, a small statue of a young boy urinating into a fountain which serves as an emblem of the city’s old centre, was dressed up in a costume of John Bull.

Our Europe correspondent Jon Stone is there with all the details:


2020-01-31T08:32:51.540Z

UK losing ‘benefits of membership’, EU leaders warn

The presidents of the EU’s three major institutions have heralded Brexit day by expressing hope for continued strong ties with Britain – but also offered warnings for the country over the consequences of the split.

In a joint letter published in several newspapers across the continent, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, European Council leader Charles Michel and European Parliament president David Sassoli said the three bodies would do all in their power to make the EU’s future partnership with Britain a success.

But they issued a reminder that the closeness of that partnership would hinge on decisions to be taken in the 11-month transitional period, “because every choice has a consequence”.

“Without the free movement of people, there can be no free movement of capital, goods and services,” they wrote.

“Without a level playing field on environment, labour, taxation and state aid, there cannot be the highest quality access to the single market.

“Without being a member, you cannot retain the benefits of membership.”

The three presidents said they had “always deeply regretted” the UK’s decision to leave, and that they shared a fondness for the UK “which goes far beyond membership of our union”.

Charles Michel, Ursula von der Leyen and David Sassoli (EPA)


2020-01-31T08:28:11.150Z

Boris Johnson hails ‘dawn of a new era’ ahead of Brexit

Britain brings down the curtain on 47 years of European Union membership on Friday at 11pm UK time – midnight in Brussels.

Boris Johnson, who last Friday signed the withdrawal treaty after its passage through parliament, said the day would signal “the dawn of a new era”.

Johnson has arranged for a special cabinet meeting in Sunderland – the city that first declared its desire to leave the EU back in 2016 – this morning. 

The PM will make a speech at 10pm before a countdown clock is projected onto Downing Street to mark the big moment one hour later.

Scotland’s first minister has chosen Brexit day to set out the “next steps” for Scotland’s future. Her speech to SNP activists in Edinburgh this morning comes the day after a YouGov poll put support among Scots for leaving the UK at 51 per cent.


2020-01-31T08:24:52.096Z

Good morning and welcome to The Independent’s live coverage of events at Westminster and beyond, as the UK prepares to leave the EU at 11pm.

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