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‘Optimism and regret’: UK papers rejoice, mourn Brexit Day

Britain’s media marked Brexit with mixed emotions © AFP / Tolga AKMEN

London, United Kingdom, Feb 1 – Britain’s partisan papers met Brexit with the same unbridled joy and tearful anguish that was felt across the streets and pubs of Britain on Friday night.

“Rise and shine… it’s a glorious new Britain,” the right-wing Daily Express tabloid proclaimed on the day the divided country’s 47-year stay in the European Union came to an end after three delays.

“Muscles without Brussels,” declared The Sun, a tabloid that campaigned tirelessly for Brexit in the 2016 EU membership referendum, above a video of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Brexit Day address.

“It will be a bumpy road,” London’s Standard newspaper countered over an image of the same Johnson video message.

Britain’s main television channels tried to reflect the historic nature of a night delayed by years of political wrangling and indecision.

“Farewell, au revoir, auf wiedersehen,” Sky News wrote in a breaking news alert.

The BBC, a publically-financed broadcaster that came under fire from from Brexit critics and supporters alike for its coverage, played it straight: “Brexit: UK leaves the European Union”.

“Britain finally cuts EU ties,” said the Financial Times.

But several newspapers used the occasion to reflect on the intense passions Brexit stirred up over the past three and a half years.

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The Guardian, a paper with strong leftist traditions, also pondered the simultaneous ecstasy and agony of the historic night.

“The mixed emotions of Brexit day show the UK is not yet at ease with itself,” it wrote.

“So for all Johnson’s talk of healing, there was no agreement between leave and remain at the moment of parting -– except on one thing. Both saw 11:00 pm as chiming in an epochal shift in the history of these islands.”

“What next?” the i paper asked on its front page.

Some in Scotland — where a majority voted to remain in the EU — had an answer.

“Isolated, worse off, weaker and divided,” said the EU-supporting Daily Record in a Friday headline meant to look like an inscription on a 50-pence Brexit commemoration coin.

The one officially issued by Johnson’s government reads “peace, prosperity and friendship with all nations”.

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