Britain has officially left the European Union on Friday evening in an historic move that marks the end of a decades-long partnership and opened a new page in its history after three and a half years of hard negotiations.
At 11 o’clock on Friday night in London, the famous Big Ben watch did not tick for being under maintenance, but huge crowds gathered in central London before the parliament building to celebrate and commiserate the moment, which Boris Johnson hailed as the “beginning of a new era”.
“For many people this is an astonishing moment of hope, a moment they thought would never come,” the Prime Minister said before the historic moment.
There may be "bumps in the road" but Brexit can "unleash the full potential" of the UK, Mr Johnson said.
As the moment of the UK's departure from the EU approached, the Prime Minister acknowledged mixed feelings in the decision.
"There are many of course who feel a sense of anxiety and loss," said the PM.
After years of bitter wrangling since the 2016 referendum, Mr Johnson said his job was now to "bring this country together".
"We want this to be the beginning of a new era of friendly cooperation between the EU and an energetic Britain, a Britain that is simultaneously a great European power and truly global in our range and ambitions."
"And when I look at this country's incredible assets, our scientists, our engineers, our world-leading universities, our armed forces, when I look at the potential of this country waiting to be unleashed I know that we can turn this opportunity into a stunning success.
"And whatever the bumps in the road ahead I know that we will succeed."
There will only be minimal changes as the deal negotiated by the UK and EU keeps Britain aligned with EU rules for the rest of the year.
But attention has already turned to the next set of talks aimed at securing the future relationship which will apply from January 1, 2021.
And Mr Johnson has been clear he also wants to strike deals with countries around the world - notably Donald Trump's USA.
In Washington, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo promised to enhance bilateral relations between Washington and London.
"I am pleased the UK and EU have agreed on a #Brexit deal that honors the will of the British people. We will continue building upon our strong, productive, and prosperous relationship with the UK as they enter this next chapter," Pompeo tweeted following the exit of UK.
Brussels is pessimistic about the 11-month timetable for reaching a deal and made clear that Britain will have to accept worse terms and conditions for trade than if it were still a member of the EU.
European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said: "We want to have the best possible relationship with the United Kingdom, but it will never be as good as membership."
Senior Cabinet minister Michael Gove acknowledged the trade-offs that would have to be made in any deal.
"We want trade to be as frictionless as possible but the EU is clear, you can only have fully frictionless trade if you accept all of their rules, if you accept all their laws, you are subordinate to their judges, you are subordinate to their political structures," he told the BBC.
Mr Gove said there "will be some regulations that will differ in Britain" so "that may mean that when it comes to trading with Europe there are some bureaucratic processes there that aren't there now".
The Daily Telegraph reported that Mr Johnson is prepared to impose full customs and border checks on all European goods entering the UK in an effort to create leverage in the negotiations with Brussels.
As the Cabinet gathered in Sunderland, car giant Nissan - which has a major plant in the city - called for clarity from the Government about its plans and urged both the UK and EU to secure "an orderly balanced Brexit that will continue to encourage mutually beneficial trade".
The Prime Minister hosted a reception in Number 10 for senior ministers, officials and supporters of Vote Leave who quaffed English sparkling wine while a countdown clock beamed onto the building ticked down the minutes until 11pm.
Nigel Farage told cheering crowds at the Brexit celebration rally in Parliament Square: "We did it. We transformed the landscape of our country.
"There are some that say we shouldn't celebrate tonight, but we are going to celebrate tonight."
He added: "The people have beaten the establishment. The real winner tonight is democracy. And I am someone who believes we should be pro-Europe, but not the European Union.
In Scotland, which voted to stay in the EU in the 2016 referendum, rallies and candlelit vigils took place as activists sought to send a message to the EU to keep open a place for Scotland.
In Northern Ireland, the campaign group Border Communities Against Brexit staged a series of protests in Armagh, near to the border with the Republic of Ireland.
In Cardiff, First Minister Mark Drakeford said Wales would "remain a proudly European nation".
Meanwhile leaders across Europe gave their reactions to the first country leaving the EU.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Brexit was "a deep break for us all" and warned the "negotiations will certainly not be easy".
French President Emmanuel Macron said Brexit was an "alarm signal" for the EU and hit out at the "lies, exaggerations, simplifications" that led to the Leave vote.
PUKmedia / Agencies