Patrons at a popular Belfast watering hole were relieved to see Brexit arrive hours before the UK leaves the European Union.
Brexit briefing Newsletter
Revelers at Wetherspoon’s Bridge House on Bedford Street told the Belfast Telegraph that there is more to life than Brexit.
The pub is part of a chain owned by arch-Brexiteer Tim Martin, who was educated in Northern Ireland. At lunchtime on Friday punters were more relived to see the end of the long-running saga of how the UK would leave.
Views on Brexit differ starkly across Northern Ireland, which voted 56% in favour of remaining in the EU.
DUP Brexit spokesman Sammy Wilson said that the UK was “breaking free from the EU prison”, while UUP leader Steve Aiken was adamant that “a border in the Irish Sea is nothing to celebrate”.
One of the bar patrons was Jamie Bark, in Belfast for his stag do, dressed in a baby’s nappy and bonnet.
He said that he didn’t realise his stag would be clashing with Brexit day.
“I’m a bit disappointed, I would prefer to remain and I think we are better off in the EU than leaving,” he told the Belfast Telegraph.
Local man Ben McFetridge said that with everything going on and the length of time Brexit had taken, he didn’t think anybody was going to be interested in it in the short term.
“It’s going to happen, and a few people are protesting, but it’s going to take at least a year to try and find out what sort of trade relationship they are going to have,” he said.
“There’s more important things in this world, I think there’s friendship and life goes on, family and friends are the most important thing, and your health.”
Hugh Moore said that he didn’t believe Brexit would have a direct effect on him.
“The best thing I think about it is just let them get on with it,” he said.
However, Mr Moore said he would not be toasting Brexit at 11pm.
“It’s just another day,” he said.
Jim Hunter said he was “glad” to see Brexit over, as he’s “sick to the back teeth of it”.
Brexit day celebrations are taking place across the UK with a large Leave Means Leave party, led by Nigel Farage, taking place in Parliament Square.
Northern Ireland is also getting in on the act with a rally planned for Stormont.
Pro-Brexit demonstrators, including DUP MLA Jim Wells, are set to gather at the gates of Parliament buildings at 10.30pm for the Brexit countdown.
East Antrim MP Mr Wilson supported leaving the bloc and said the EU had “bound our economy, student our growth and restricted our economic freedom”.
“It is especially important for Northern Ireland that the concessions given to the EU in the Withdrawal Agreement do not leave us in the EU prison yard or acting as a part of the United Kingdom released only under licence,” he said.
Mr Wilson called on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to reject any agreement that would give the EU control or influence over any part of the UK.
He urged the Prime Minister to use his parliamentary majority “to properly break away from the malign influence of the European Union”.
“Today we can celebrate the first step in achieving what people voted for in the referendum to make Britain a free democracy again,” Mr Wilson said.
Mr Aiken, who voted to remain in the 2016 referendum, said the Withdrawal Agreement was a “woeful Brexit deal”.
“Great Britain will be moving on with Northern Ireland dumped into an EU-UK limbo land. The question is where do we go from here?,” the South Antrim MLA asked.
He said that unionism “can’t afford any more strategic mistakes”.
“Northern Ireland and the Union itself have already sustained enough collateral damage in the pursuit of an ideologically pure Brexit,” Mr Aiken said.
“Instead we need to focus on how we go about curbing the worst excesses of Boris Johnson`s Withdrawal Agreement to protect our trading links with our biggest market in Great Britain, grow our economy in the future and strengthen the Union.
“We have to sell our case within Northern Ireland and across the rest of the United Kingdom.”
The UUP leader called on the Government to clarify Northern Ireland’s position following Brexit, due to “scant and contradictory information” coming from Westminster.