The UK has unveiled a new commemorative Brexit coin declaring “peace, prosperity and friendship” with all nations despite looming difficulties as it prepares to embark on a new future that is independent of the European Union.
The new 50 pence coin – displayed by Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid – is part of government plans to mark January 31 as a new dawn for Britain as it leaves the world’s largest trading bloc after 47 years of ever-closer integration.
But a series of international problems – including a dispute with the US over Huawei and the difficulty of striking a new trading relationship with the EU – threatens to mute the government-organised celebrations planned for January 31.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson plans to address the nation and buildings in the government district of Whitehall will be lit up during a countdown to 11pm when the UK leaves the bloc.
"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," said Michael Heseltine, a former deputy prime minister of the ruling Conservative party and prominent anti-Brexit campaigner, told The Observer newspaper.
Mr Javid ordered a new batch of coins to mark Brexit on October 31 2019, but they had to be melted down after the planned departure date was delayed. Now three million of the coins will enter circulation from Friday.
Mr Javid said: “Leaving the European Union is a turning point in our history and this coin marks the beginning of this new chapter.”
Leaving the EU on Friday is just the first step with negotiators aiming to draw up a new trading relationship between both sides before the end of the year. European officials have expressed scepticism that one can be secured in less than a year.
The Irish Minister for European Affairs Helen McEntee told UK’s Sky News “Brexit is really only at half-time, we have a huge amount of work still to do".
The UK is also seeking a new trade deal with the United States amid warnings that potential plans to incorporate Huawei technology into its 5G network could hamper those talks.
US President Donald Trump has repeatedly urged European countries not to use Huawei for security reasons even it could bring down the cost of infrastructure projects by billions of pounds.