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New era for divided Britain as UK formally leaves European Union

LONDON: Britain on Friday ended almost half a century of European Union membership, making a historic exit after years of bitter arguments to chart its own uncertain path in the world. There were celebrations and tears across the country as the EU’s often reluctant member became the first to leave an organisation set up to forge unity among nations after the horrors of World War II.

Thousands of people waving Union Jack flags packed London’s Parliament Square to mark the moment of Brexit at 11 pm (2300 GMT) – midnight in Brussels. “We are a free nation,” declared John Moss, a 44-year-old businessman who joined the crowd, which erupted into cheers as the clock ticked down.

Many pro-Europeans, including many of the 3.6 million EU citizens who made their lives in Britain, marked the occasion with solemn candlelit vigils. Brexit has exposed deep divisions in British society.  One Brexit supporter set fire to an EU flag in central London.

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