It has finally happened. What the UK, Europe, and pretty much the whole world has been discussing and debating for three and a half years is now a reality. The UK parted ways with the European Union (EU) at 11 PM GMT on January 31, 2020.
A Memory Jog
- Conservative MP David Cameron had to hold a referendum under political pressure on June 23, 2016.
- The Eurosceptics won by not too wide a margin: 52% voted for Brexit and 48% against it.
- The process of the divorce started in March 2017 under Prime Minister Theresa May as pro-EU Cameron had resigned after the referendum results.
- With Brexit – British exit – achieved, the deadline to complete the transition period has been set as December 31, 2020.
‘London Is Open’
On June 24, 2016, the day after the referendum, BBC News reported:
- A majority of London boroughs had voted against Brexit.
- The total Remain vote across the 33 boroughs of London was 59.9%, with some boroughs reflecting as high as 70% votes against Brexit.
The national vote rendered the capital’s vote irrelevant. But London held on to its spirit on Brexit day.
London mayor Sadiq Khan has been openly anti-Brexit. He started a ‘London is open’ campaign on July 29, 2016, inviting artists to submit their ideas. The signature posters and signboards have remained visible across London’s Underground network throughout this time.
However, on Brexit day, this special message from the mayor greeted commuters at London’s Underground stations:
The public transport system in London warmed up to the mayor’s call. On Brexit day, this same message was displayed on the digital screens of various Underground stations, such as the one tweeted by Terri White, the editor-in-chief of the Empire magazine, on the Northern Line.
She was openly sentimental in her post, stating that the sign caused a lump in her throat.
Several renowned public hotspots shared the ‘London is open’ message on Twitter and on-site on Brexit day:
- Horniman Museum and Gardens
- Museum of London
- Sadler’s Wells
- Soho Theatre
- Large gatherings of anti-Brexit protesters gathered at Downing Street and in Westminster near the Houses of Parliament even as the countdown began.
- The mayor of London had earlier hosted an event at the City Hall for the European residents of the city.
- ‘London is Open-supporting European Londoners through Brexit’ was the title of the event.
- Immigration lawyers remain available at the City Hall to help Europeans in the UK apply for ‘settled’ status.
- The mayor’s office has also promised emotional support to the estimated three million Europeans in the country.
- The event had many more attendees than anticipated as many Britons went with the Europeans to be with them in solidarity as the countdown began.
A London open to all views
Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s televised address greeted the nation as he threw a party for his Cabinet colleagues at 10 Downing Street to celebrate Brexit. A countdown clock had been projected onto his residence.
The Leave Means Leave group announced a Brexit Celebration party at Parliament Square, starting at 9.30 PM on January 31, 2020. The invitation read: ‘Grab your Union Flag and come celebrate Brexit.’
Local bylaws and lack of planning meant the promised fireworks, bands, and comedians did not happen. But people did gather in numbers to celebrate ‘freedom’. Union Jack flags went up all around Westminster. People also thronged the streets with their own Union Jacks.
There were several other celebrations across London:
- Wetherspoon hosted a boisterous crowd of Brexit supporters before founder and chairman Tim Martin addressed them with his loud criticism of the EU.
- He also served them ‘Freedom Breakfast’ the next morning, along with hangup cures.
- The Bow Group, a rightwing thinktank, had invited dinner guests to listen to Thatcherite John Redwood and celebrate together.
During the Transition
- As per the Withdrawal Agreement, from February 1, 2020, UK representatives are no longer allowed to participate in any of the EU agencies, governance structures, and institutions.
- The UK Financial Conduct Authority is no longer a part of the European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA)’s Board of Supervisors or other governing structures.
- However, EU law will remain applicable until December 31, 2020.
- Credit Rating Agencies, Securitisation Repositories, and Trade Repositories established during the transition period will be under the direct supervision of ESMA.
The scaffolded Big Ben remained silent at Brexit hour. Perhaps to signify that the ‘European Londoners’, as the mayor has termed them, have infused Europeanism in the city in an undeniable manner. London wants to remain a metropolitan city welcoming people of all ethnicity. And on the day of Brexit, it clearly demonstrated that it is home to so many different beliefs, ideas, opinions and world views and that even after Brexit it will remain open.