The words “London is open” rang in 2019 with a dazzling riverside display and the phrase was spoken in seven languages around two minutes past midnight as the city skyline filled with lights in the largest annual display in Europe.
A soundtrack featuring Europe’s finest musical artists celebrated the diversity of the capital, after Big Ben, silent for much of 2018 due to renovations, chimed once more.
But the stunt provoked fury from Brexiteers with Conservative MP and Andrew Bridgen accusing Khan of a “betrayal of democracy”.
He told the Sun: “It’s low, it’s very low to politicise what is an international public event.
“It’s a betrayal of democracy and it’s what we have come to expect from a very poor mayor of London.
“Over three million EU citizens have decided to make the UK their home despite Brexit. I wish all our politicians had as much confidence in post-Brexit Britain as these people.”
And his thoughts were echoed by many on Twitter, including journalist Julia Hartley-Brewer who said: “Are you bloody kidding me? You put the EU flag on the London Eye on New Year’s Eve? WTAF?”
Nigel Farage said: ”London’s Mayor clearly has no understanding of the city’s history, it has never been confined to Europe. It has always been far more broad-minded and global.”
Dominic Farrell, whose Twitter account says he is a “former Major in the British Army”, said: “I hope there are no more murders tonight. Tragic 2018 for London, crime is out of control, particularly the murder rate.
“Maybe focus less on the EU and Twitter ‘crime’ and more on stopping murders. Priorities.”
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said the sold-out display would show Europe that the capital will remain “open-minded” and “outward looking” post-Brexit.
He said Westminster politicians had given the world the impression that Britain is “insular, inward looking”, as Britain begins the new year countdown to Brexit.
But the move also delighted many others.
Khan said he hoped this year’s event would “send a message of support” to the more than one million European citizens for whom London is home.
He has previously expressed his backing for a People’s Vote and has voiced his concerns over the effects of a no-deal Brexit on the capital.
Speaking to the Press Association on New Year’s Eve, he said: “Well one of the things which upset many, many Londoners and many people across our country and in Europe is the tone and language used by politicians in Westminster, giving the impression we’re insular, inward looking, not welcoming to Europeans.”