The United Kingdom completed its split from the European Union on Thursday.
Britain formally exited the EU’s single market and customs union as the transition period expired at 23:00 GMT, and began trading with the 27-member political and economic bloc under the new free trade agreement reached on Christmas Eve.
The split comes 11 months after the UK formally left the EU on Jan. 31, 2020—three and a half years after the UK public voted to leave the EU in a 2016 referendum.
“Britain has just become a fully independent country again—deciding our own affairs for ourselves,” said David Frost, the UK’s chief Brexit negotiator.
“We have a great future before us. Now we can build a better country for us all,” he wrote on Twitter.
“This is an amazing moment for this country. We have our freedom in our hands, and it is up to us to make the most of it,” he said.
Johnson stressed national unity in his speech, saying he believes “it will be the overwhelming instinct of the people of this country to come together as one United Kingdom—England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland working together to express our values around the world.”
But Brexit has put the union under significant strain. Though the UK as a whole voted to leave the EU by 52 to 48 percent in the 2016 referendum, both Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to remain.
“Scotland will be back soon, Europe. Keep the light on,” Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who opposes Brexit and favours Scottish independence from the UK, said in a Twitter post on Thursday night.
French president Emmanuel Macron expressed regret over the situation in his traditional New Year’s address, saying, “The United Kingdom remains our neighbor but also our friend and ally. This choice of leaving Europe, this Brexit, was the child of European malaise and lots of lies and false promises.”
France’s European affairs minister, Clément Beaune, said the promises made by Brexiteers—“a sort of total freedom, a lack of restrictions, of influence—I think will not happen.”
The new arrangement enables Britain and the EU to continue tariff-free trade in goods. Until now, annual trade between the two sides amount to some 660 billion pounds ($894 billion).
The British government announced that “the border systems and infrastructure we need are in place, and we are ready for the UK’s new start.”
Britons and EU citizens have lost the automatic right to live and work in the others' territory and have to follow immigration rules and obtain work visas. Tourists will not need visas for short trips, but Britons visiting the continent face other administrative formalities from travel insurance to pet paperwork.