Brexit: What happens on Friday evening as the UK leaves the EU?
By Gary Parkinson
Flags outside the UK Houses of Parliament (Credit: AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)

Flags outside the UK Houses of Parliament (Credit: AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)

At 23:00 GMT on Friday 31 January - midnight Brussels time - the UK will leave the European Union, 1,317 days after the Brexit referendum. It will be a time of celebration for some, sadness for others. But what actually happens on Friday night?

In truth, not an enormous amount. Both the UK and the EU have worked hard to ensure there is no sudden cliff-edge: that's the point of the negotiation-filled transition period - initially 11 months to 31 December, but extendable by up to two years if both sides agree, although UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said the UK will not agree to any extension.

However, that's all for the future. On Friday itself, Johnson will hold a Cabinet meeting in the north of England, before making an evening television address from Downing Street. The outside of Number 10 will be decorated with a countdown clock projected on to it and, we are promised, a lightshow. 

While UK flags will hang in Parliament Square (where a pro-Brexit rally is planned) and outside Buckingham Palace, British embassies around the world will take down the EU flag and British ports will begin to remove EU signage. 

The absence of EU branding doesn't mean an absence of EU benefits, during the transition period at least. There will be no changes at ferry ports or airports; freedom of movement and price caps on mobile phone roaming will remain; so will existing reciprocal healthcare arrangements like EHIC cards. Brits can even continue to use the blue EU channels at border points.

Even so, Friday evening is a watershed moment in British and European politics as the UK becomes the first country to leave the European Union. CGTN Europe will be running a special two-hour broadcast between 22:00 and midnight GMT, on television and on Facebook, to mark the historic event. 

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