The United Kingdom officially leaves the European Union at 11pm tonight, January 31, with the nation’s newspaper front pages marking the historic moment and reflecting the Brexit divides still evident across the country.
A mix of triumphalism, despair, doom, anger and optimism dominate the papers, many of whom have published special “souvenir” Brexit Day editions.
‘The curtain goes up on a new act’
“A new dawn for Britain” exclaims the Daily Mail’s front page, quoting Boris Johnson whose pre-recorded message to the nation will be broadcast shortly before 11pm tonight. The Mail state: “Mr Johnson will describe Brexit as ‘the moment when the dawn breaks and the curtain goes up on a new act’.”
“Yes, we did it” hails the Express, using a collage of its front pages to form an image of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and offering a “special pullout” inside.
Telegraph’s ‘Little tales. Big yarns.’
The Daily Telegraph’s tone is similarly jubilant and also quotes the prime minister (and occasional Telegraph columnist) with the headline: “This is not an end, but a beginning.” Today’s edition carries an “eight page supplement to mark a campaign that changed history”, called “The story of the Telegraph and Brexit”. The large advertisement at the bottom of the Telegraph’s front page – promoting tourism to Jersey – has its own title: “Little tales. Big yarns.’
“Brexit – it’s time”, says the Times’ front page, using a picture of the famous clock face at Westminster, hands pointed at 11 o’clock and framed with scaffolding. The black-based wrap around covers the back page of the paper with a chronology of the key events in the UK’s history with the EU.
“Our time had come” announces the Sun, using a photo of Big Ben illuminated against a blue (almost EU flag hue) sky and accompanied with: “Tonight at 11pm, after 30 years of resistance to the creeping danger of a European superstate, the great people of the United Kingdom have at last, finally…Got Brexit Done.”
To coin a phrase
The Sun holds a “free giant Brexit poster” inside and offers readers: “100 souvenir 50p coins to be won”.
The freshly minted Brexit commemoration 50p coin enters circulation today and provides Scotland’s Daily Record with its mock-up image of a “commiseration 50p coin” engraved with, “Isolated, worse off, weaker and divided” above its main headline: “Short changed”.
The Scotsman uses an image of three flags fluttering on black background – the Union and EU flags sandwiching the Scottish saltire above the headline: “Farewell, not goodbye”.
‘The biggest gamble in a generation’
“Small island” is the Guardian’s sombre headline across a photo with the symbolic White Cliffs of Dover back-grounding a sand castle topped with a small Union flag. Its caption reads: “After 47 years, Britain leaves the EU at 11pm tonight – the biggest gamble in a generation.”
The i shares the pessimism, titling its front page: “UK’s leap into the unknown” on top of a night time satellite image of Europe. The call-outs read: “Questions over trade and future realtions with Europe and America are unresolved; Boris Johnson urges national renewal, as Brussels mourns loss of pragmatic friend; Bank of England cuts growth forecast – but still no interest rates rise.” The i carries Brexit Day reports and analysis on pages 6-11, 15, 18.
The Financial Times front page headline encapsulates the day: “Britain bows out of the EU with a mixture of optimism and regret.” Its three main points under the headline are: “Johnson hails ‘dawn of new ear’; Low-key celebrations; Focus shifts to trade negotiations.”
No Big Ben bong, beer, bubbly or fireworks for Brexit in Parliament Square
There won’t be fireworks or indeed a Big Ben bell ringing out to mark the historic moment as police have refused to lift the Breach of Fireworks curfew that bans their use between 11pm and 7am, as stated in UK law (with December 31 and November 5 the only exceptions).
Downing Street pulled the plug on the campaign to get Big Ben to bong for Brexit at 11pm but Brexiteers will still gather for a celebratory rally in Parliament Square and the Leave Means Leave (LML) campaign group have previously promised to “recreate” the sound of the famous bell, “with our powerful speaker system”.
The alcohol-free event runs from 9.30pm (according to a Leave means Leave tweet – since updated to read 9pm) until 11.15pm. “So, that’s 15 minutes of fun and furious flag-waving after the UK officially leaves,” report Time Out, with speeches expected by Brexit party leader Nigel Farage, party chairman Richard Tice, MEP Ann Widdecombe, broadcaster Julia Hartley-Brewer and Wetherspoon pubs founder Tim Martin.
“The world will be watching, and listening,” Tice told LML supporters in an email, continuing: “and we invite you to come and witness this historic moment with our cross-party group which has dedicated itself to upholding the democratic will of the British people over the past three-and-half years.”