It has finally happened. Years after voters decided to leave the European Union (EU), the U.K. has completed its economic break from its European neighbors at 11 p.m. London time on Thursday.
The final economic break happened on New Year's Eve after the U.K. left the single market and customs union and entered into a new trade deal. It was a momentous milestone for Brexit supporters.
In Jan. 2020, after a tumultuous three-and-a-half-year exit, the U.K. left the EU and ended its 47-year membership with its European allies. A final deadline of Dec. 31. 2020 was then set for the U.K. to transition away from the EU and negotiate with regulators.
After months of tense negotiations, the U.K. reached a free trade agreement on Christmas Eve that allows the U.K. to continue to buy and sell goods with members of the EU and without tariffs or quotas.
In a New Year's video message, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson called the U.K.'s long-awaited economic break "an amazing moment for the country."
"11 p.m. on the 31 December marks a new beginning in our country’s history and a new relationship with the EU as their biggest ally. This moment is finally upon us and now is the time to seize it," said Johnson.
"This is a big moment for our country, a giant leap forward. Time to raise a glass. #BrexitAtLast," tweeted Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage, who spent 27 years campaigning for the U.K.'s exit.
When the U.K. officially left the EU earlier this year, Farage gave a speech before the European Parliament in which the Brexiter recalled how he came to oppose what he calls the European project.
"I'm hoping this begins the end of this project," Farage told the EU in January. "It's a bad project. It isn't just undemocratic. It's antidemocratic, and it puts in that front row -- it gives people power without accountability. People who cannot be held to account by the electorate, and that is an unacceptable structure. Indeed, there is a historic battle going on now across the west in Europe, America and elsewhere. It is globalism verse populism. And you may loath popularism, but I'll tell you a funny thing. It's becoming very popular. ... I know you're gonna miss us. I know you want to ban our national flags but we're gonna wave you goodbye and we look forward to working with you as sovereign ..."
Farage's microphone was then cut as he and others disobeyed Parliament's rules by proudly waving the Union Flag.
In a 2016 referendum, almost 52 percent of British voters elected to leave the EU and 48 percent of voters wished to remain. The arduous process of disentangling itself from the yolk of its EU neighbors has taken the U.K. years to complete. The day after the result, then-Prime Minister David Camron resigned. After several failed attempts to negotiate an exit, former Prime Minister Theresa May stepped down in 2019. Current Prime Minister Boris Johnson took over in May 2019 and won a subsequent landslide victory later that year.