United Kingdom formally leaves European Union

The United Kingdom has left the European Union’s economic and political orbit in an historic departure that has split Britons politically and marked the country’s greatest shift on the global stage in modern times.

As the clock struck 11pm in London on Thursday (23:00 GMT), December 31, the Brexit transition period came to an end and the UK exited the bloc’s single market and customs union.

Supporters claim the move will set the country free to pursue new opportunities as an independent global power.

But critics say it reverses decades of integration with its closest neighbours and threatens to break up the UK, harm the country’s economy and diminish its international standing.

A small group of people look across from the embankment towards the London Eye Ferris wheel by the River Thames. (Photo AP)

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