BORIS Johnson last night promised a renewed Britain as the nation’s long-awaited Brexit finally became reality.
When Big Ben bonged at 11pm, the UK cut the last ties with the EU and became an independent country for the first time in nearly 50 years.
In a New Year’s message to the nation, the PM heralded a new dawn which will see a free and turbocharged Britain.
He said we will now be an “open, generous, outward-looking, internationalist and free-trading global” country.
Reflecting on the “grimness of 2020”, blighted by the killer coronavirus, he said the nation has lost “too many loved ones before their time”.
But it was also a year the country rediscovered its “spirit of togetherness, of community” with the sacrifices it made.
He said: “It was a year in which we banged saucepans to celebrate the courage and self-sacrifice of our NHS staff and care home workers.
“A year in which working people pulled the stops out to keep the country moving in the biggest crisis we have faced for generations — shopworkers, transport staff, pharmacists, emergency services, everyone, you name it.
“We saw a renewed spirit of volunteering, as people delivered food to the elderly and vulnerable.
“And time after time as it became necessary to fight new waves of the virus, we saw people unite in their determination, our determination, to protect the NHS and to save lives. Putting their lives, your lives, on hold.”
The PM warned that Britain faces a “hard struggle” in the weeks and months ahead as it battles with the second wave of coronavirus.
But he added that “as the sun rises on 2021 we have the certainty of those vaccines” — and Brits will then get their lives back.
He said: “We can see that illuminated sign that marks the end of the journey, and even more important, we can see with growing clarity how we are going to get there.”
The PM celebrated quietly at home in Downing Street with his fiancee Carrie Symonds and their baby son Wilfred.
But he heralded an “amazing moment” which would allow Britain to put rocket boosters on its economy.
He said the country is now free to “do things differently, and if necessary better, than our friends in the EU”.
Boris added: “Free to do trade deals around the world. And free to turbocharge our ambition to be a science superpower.
“From biosciences to artificial intelligence, and with our world-leading battery and wind technology, we will work with partners around the world.
“Not just to tackle climate change but to create the millions of high-skilled jobs this country will need not just this year — 2021 — as we bounce back from Covid, but in the years to come.
“This is an amazing moment for this country. We have our freedom in our hands and it is up to us to make the most of it.
“And I think it will be the overwhelming instinct of the people of this country to come together as one United Kingdom — England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland working together to express our values around the world.”
The historic moment came exactly four years, six months and eight days after Britain voted to leave the EU in June 2016.
Big Ben bonged at 11pm to mark the historic occasion – and again an hour later at midnight to see in the New Year.
The UK’s chief Brexit negotiator Lord David Frost tweeted following the crucial moment: “Britain has just become a fully independent country again – deciding our own affairs for ourselves.
“Thank you to everyone who worked with me (and) @BorisJohnson to get us here in the last 18 months.
“We have a great future before us. Now we can build a better country for us all.”
Prominent Brexiteer Nigel Farage tweeted: “This is a big moment for our country, a giant leap forward.
“Time to raise a glass. #BrexitAtLast.”
Tory Brexiteers also welcomed a new era for the UK — as they celebrated exiting the EU and the horrors of 2020.
Sir Bill Cash called it a “victory for democracy and sovereignty”.
Mark Francois, chairman of the European Research Group, said: “Tonight we get a chance to wave both 2020 and the EU goodbye, within an hour of each other.
“After a terrible year and a great struggle for our liberty, it’s a marvellous example of buy one, get one free.”
A total of 17.4 million voters, or 52 per cent of the population, opted to leave the EU in a historic referendum on June 23, 2016.
Brexiteers hailed the agreement finally coming into force tonight – but Remainers even compared the deal to one Britain got with Hitler.
Remainer Peer Lord Adonis faced a backlash for comparing it with the Munich Agreement from 1938 – seen as a capitulaiton to the Nazi dictator.
He said in the House of Lords yesterday: “I will therefore begin by saying what everybody would like to ignore or forget, but which must be stated, that ”we have sustained a total and unmitigated defeat”.
“Those were Winston Churchill’s words in the House of Commons on the Munich agreement 82 years ago.
“Alas, they apply word for word to the Brexit agreement we are being asked to rubber-stamp today.”
But Brexiteers hit back, and Tory MP Michael Fabricant told MailOnline: “I think Ursula von der Leyen will regard his views with the same contempt that the majority of the British population regard his views.
“Lord Adonis has become renowned for an extremism expressed in his own way. Fortunately few now choose to pay any real attention to anything he has to say.”
Peter Bone, Tory MP and leader of the Brexiteer group Grassroots Out, told The Sun it would truly be “independence day”.
Looking back at the campaign, the 68-year-old added: “We have taken on the establishment and we are going to beat the establishment.
“Me and my partner will be celebrating at 11pm with a bottle of champagne.
“We will raise a glass to all those people who did it.”
Earlier yesterday as Boris’ dad Stanley revealed he had applied for a French passport.
Stanley Johnson insisted he had old families ties to the country adding: “If I understand it correctly, I am French.”
Stanley is a former member of the European Parliament who voted Remain in Britain’s 2016 referendum.
Speaking in French about why he wants citizenship of the country, Stanley said “My mother was born in France, her mother was totally French as was her grandfather.
“So for me it is about reclaiming what I already have. And that makes me very happy”.
“I will always be a European, that’s for sure. One cannot tell the British people: you are not Europeans. Having a tie with the European Union is important,” the 80-year-old added.
Source: The Sun