B-Day: Britain finally leaves the EU
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has hailed Brexit as the "dawn of a new era" as the UK has broken free from the European Union after 47 years.
Big Ben did not bong but there were wild and emotional celebrations in Parliament Square, London and across the UK at 11pm on Friday night local time (10am AEDT), as Britain officially ceased to be a member of the EU.
After three years of dither and delay, the UK honoured the referendum result as the country plans to unlock new trade deals to reassert its place on the world stage.
Mr Johnson said in an address to the nation aired this morning that he wanted to move forward and heal the country's divisions.
Brexit will be "the moment when the dawn breaks and the curtain goes up on a new act," he said.
"It is a moment of real national renewal and change."
Mr Johnson used the speech as a platform to renew his pledge to level up the UK, which has a dramatic gap between the wealth of London in the southeast and the working class of the north.
"This is the dawn of a new era in which we no longer accept that your life chances - your family's life chances - should depend on which part of the country you grow up in," he said.
"Our job as the government - my job - is to bring this country together and take us forward."
Brexit party leader Nigel Farage was front and centre at celebrations in London, while in Brussels UK flags were removed.
Candlelight vigils were held in Scotland, which voted to Remain in the EU at the referendum.
Mr Johnson began his speech talking of the angst, anxiety and frustration that had come with the drawn out ordeal.
"Tonight we are leaving the European Union," he said.
"For many people this is an astonishing moment of hope, a moment they thought would never come. And there are many of course who feel a sense of anxiety and loss. And then of course there is a third group - perhaps the biggest - who had started to worry that the whole political wrangle would never come to an end.
"I understand all those feelings, and our job as the government - my job - is to bring this country together now and take us forward. And the most important thing to say tonight is that this is not an end but a beginning. This is the moment when the dawn breaks and the curtain goes up on a new act in our great national drama."
HIGH HOPES FOR NEW TRADE DEALS
The UK hopes that Brexit will open up new opportunities across the globe.
Britain still needs to do a new trade deal with the EU by the end of the year, which will be difficult.
But the UK was given a boost when US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Friday that Britain was "front of the line" for a free trade deal, despite an argument over Chinese company Huawei having access to work on the UK's 5G network.
Douglas Carswell, the only elected MP for the UKIP party that put Brexit on the agenda, said he was "quietly elated" the moment had finally arrived more than three years after Brits voted to leave.
However, he said it meant now there were no more excuses for Britain and the country would own its successes as well as its failures.
"We're going to become a self governing country like Australia and we will be standing on our own two feet," he said.
Mr Carswell, a Conservative MP who sacrificed his career by crossing to UKIP, said Britain could no longer be "conceited" and think it always had the right answers.
"We could be arrogant and think the British way is the right way but that's not true in terms of health care, it's not true in terms of education, there's areas where we need to be willing to learn," he said.
He singled out Australia's part insurance, part publicly funded healthcare as a better model than the bloated government run National Health Service where people wait up to three weeks for a GP appointment.
And the British government has already said it wants to adopt an Australian-style points based immigration system to get more skilled workers into the country.
Employment is at a record high of 73.6 per cent in the UK, but wages have hovered around 2009 levels.
Mr Carswell said that there had been a flood of cheap labour from the EU that kept wages low, preventing business from needing to invest in productivity and stopping wage rises that drive economic growth.
British voters were split 52-48 in favour of Brexit at the 2016 referendum, but voters gave Johnson a thumping majority at the December general election.
He fought the election on the platform of getting Brexit done, and his win was seen as an endorsement of the policy.
However, those loyal to the Remain camp have been mourning Brexit this week.
Tony Blair's spin doctor Alastair Campbell led a chorus of protest against new 50 pence coins that were minted to commemorate Brexit.
"I for one shall be asking shopkeepers for 'two 20p pieces and a 10' if they offer me a 50p coin pretending that Brexit is about 'peace, prosperity and friendship with all nations' given it puts all three at risk," he said on Twitter this week.