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Britons bid farewell to EU with mixed feelings

(Xinhua)    14:45, February 01, 2020

It marks an end. Britain finally exited the European Union (EU) on Friday, more than three years after a referendum in 2016 threw the country into immense political chaos and social division.

"It is a day worth celebration," Simon Sutton, a taxi driver in Dover, felt relieved.

However, not everyone was in a mood for celebration.

Stuart Ord-Hume, a stock broker for 23 years, spent the day watching TV programs dominated by Brexit news.

"The Brexit process has lasted for three years and people are bored with it. I won't hold a party for Brexit. It has become a reality. What we should do is to accept the reality and move on," he said.

Admitting that people have various feelings about Brexit, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson tried to heal the country deeply divided by the issue in a special address on Friday: "I understand all those feelings ... This is the moment when the dawn breaks and the curtain goes up on a new act in our great national drama."

British government buildings were lit up in red, white and blue, and Downing Street was illuminated with a Brexit-themed light display ahead of 11 p.m. (2300 GMT) on Friday -- the hour Britain officially left the EU -- symbolizing the strength and unity of Britain.

Three million commemorative 50-pence (about 65.5 U.S. cents) coins, which read "Peace, prosperity and friendship with all nations," came into circulation on the day.

"Arguably, the past three-and-a-half years have been the easy part, despite all the political wrangling," said Aarti Sakhuja, an S&P Global Ratings credit analyst based in London.

"The focus now shifts to trade talks, which the British government is keen to conclude before the end of the year," she said.

Britain aims to be able to diverge from EU standards so that it is free to negotiate trade pacts with other countries and trading blocs, but the further it diverges from EU regulations, the higher the costs of trading with the bloc will be, Sakhuja said, warning sectors like auto will suffer because their competitiveness depends on the close alignment with EU regulations.

The British government is considering introducing a new immigration system to attract skilled workers to the country after Brexit. But questions remain over whether the new system will help employers access the varying skill levels that the British economy needs.

"Despite the positive step from government to introduce a seasonal workers' pilot scheme that allows 2,500 non-EU workers to take up seasonal work on UK farms annually, more action is needed," said Ali Capper, chair of the Horticulture and Potatoes board of the country's National Farmers' Union.

Capper said the number of non-EU workers should be increased to 30,000 this year, and to a fully functioning scheme of 60,000 in 2021.

"Nothing is going to change until the transition period ends in December 2020, and after that almost everything is going to change ... For services businesses, any deal in 11 months is like a no-deal," said Paul Hardy, Brexit director at global law firm DLA Piper.

Analysts said Britain's financial services sector will have much narrower access to the EU's single market after losing the passporting right that allows banks and other institutions authorized in one member to trade freely in another. Any future access to the EU will be through the so-called "equivalence," a policy that the EU can unilaterally revoke.

For many, Brexit day is a new beginning -- Britain needs to begin its hard work for a new relationship with the EU, and even the world soon.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Liu Ning, Bianji)

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