Spotlight: British PM reveals plan to celebrate EU divorce amid deep division at home

Source: Xinhua| 2020-01-27 22:40:50|Editor: Lu Hui
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LONDON, Jan. 27 (Xinhua) -- British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected Monday to promise that his country will open to the world's best talent, one day after he unveiled plans to celebrate Britain's departure from the European Union (EU) on Jan. 31.

Accused by opponents of trying to "rub the noses of Remainers in their defeat," Johnson appears determined to face down industry protests over immigration as he sells his vision of a more agile country able to exploit new technologies in a new era with potentials.

BIG PLAN

Johnson will deliver a special address to the nation and Downing Street will be illuminated with a count-down light display marking Britain's exit from the EU this coming Friday at 11 p.m. (2300GMT).

The move is designed to symbolise the strength and unity of Britain's four nations -- England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

"Next Friday marks an important moment in the history of our United Kingdom," the prime minister said Sunday night. "No matter how you voted in 2016, it is the time to look ahead with confidence to the global, trail-blazing country we will become over the next decade and heal past divisions."

"That is what I will be doing on January 31 and I urge everyone across the UK to do the same," he said.

Union flags will line Parliament Square and the Mall in central London while government buildings on Whitehall will be lit up in red, white and blue throughout the evening.

A countdown clock will be projected onto Number 10's black bricks from 10 p.m. (2200GMT) on Jan. 31. To coincided with the date, the new commemorative 50p (about 65 U.S. cents) coin will also go into circulation.

Big Ben, however, is not set to ring, as many Brexiteers had desired. Johnson's proposal of crowdfunding the bill of 500,000 pounds (653,450 dollars) for restoring Big Ben to working order for Brexit day had backfired badly.

DEEP DIVISION

British politicians who fought for Britain to remain in the EU said the events are deeply inappropriate.

Tory peer and former deputy prime minister Michael Heseltine told the Observer: "Brexit is the most divisive issue of modern times. Those of us who fought to remain did so sincerely in the interests of our country and subsequent generations who we believe should be influential at the heart of Europe."

"I think it is unwise of the government to rub our noses in it by celebrating our defeat at this hour, whilst talking about unifying the country," he said.

Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats' acting leader, Ed Davey, accused Johnson of using public money for an inappropriate, divisive event.

"The prime minister should be seeking to pull the country together, not gloat with an expensive party on the public purse," he said.

The leader of the Scottish National Party at Westminster, Ian Blackford, said "It grieves me that we should be leaving the greatest postwar peace project ever created. That is not something we should be celebrating."

Claude Moraes, who has served as a Labour MEP for more than 20 years and will attend the European Parliament for the last time on Thursday, said the British government events to mark Brexit were wrong.

"All this make me feels very uneasy. The country is still bruised and divided," he said.

"The British thing to do would be to mark the occasion in a way that respects the views of both sides, and that recognises the national divide," he added.

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