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  • An EU flag flies above Parliament Square during a Unite for Europe march, in London, Britain, on March 25, 2017.

    An EU flag flies above Parliament Square during a Unite for Europe march, in London, Britain, on March 25, 2017. | Photo: Reuters

12 months of rancour and recriminations followed the referendum.

One year since the U.K. voted to leave the European Union, the country remains politically divided as negotiations over the uncertain divorce process get underway. 

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Delegations from the U.K. and EU started formal talks on Monday.

The country will stop being a member of the union on March 30, 2019, with or without an exit deal in place. 

The electorate voted 52 to 48 percent to leave the EU in the referendum on June 23, 2016.

The country was sharply split on the issue, as voters in Scotland, Northern Ireland and London voted to remain. 

While Wales and parts of England, particularly the north, voted to leave. 

Young people, the majority of whom favoured staying within the bloc, also protested throughout the country after the vote to show their anger at older voters, who had swung the result.

The former Prime Minister David Cameron, who campaigned to stay in the EU, later announced he would step down, saying the country needed fresh leadership.

As other leave campaigners in the Conservative party dropped out of the race, Theresa May, who campaigned for the U.K. to remain in the EU, became Prime Minister on July 13, 2016.

"The Britons were endlessly lied to and deceived," German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schauble said on Friday.

He also accused those who campaigned to leave of failing to accept the blame, a possible dig at the current U.K. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson.

When the Brexit campaign "happened to be successful, the ones who did it ran away because they said they can't take responsibility," Schauble said. 

In April this year, May called a snap election hoping for a big majority to strengthen her hand before formal talks with the EU.

But a resurgence from the opposition Labour Party secured huge support from young voters and cost May her gamble.

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As a result, her Conservative party lost its overall majority in Parliament and hasn’t yet secured a deal with Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) to support her minority government.

The election also forced a softening of May’s previous Brexit strategy, which would have seen the U.K. leave the customs union and single market completely.

London's Mayor Sadiq Khan has called for continued membership of the trade bloc as part of any Brexit deal.

"The government must now listen to the will of the people by putting aside ideology and negotiating a sensible Brexit that ensures continuing UK membership of the Single Market," Khan said in a statement. 

May has now pledged to protect the rights of 3 million EU citizens living in the U.K., another contentious issue within Europe.

"Last night I was pleased to be able to set out what is a very fair and a very serious offer for EU citizens who are living in the United Kingdom and the government will set out more detailed proposals on Monday," May told reporters in Brussels on Friday.

Under May’s plan, EU citizens who had lived in Britain for five years could stay for life.

Those residing there for less would be allowed to stay until they reach the five-year threshold for "settled status".

But the cut-off date has not been specified. 

"I want to reassure all those EU citizens who are in the UK, who have made their lives and homes in the UK, that no one will have to leave. We won't be seeing families split apart," she continued, adding she also wanted similar guarantees for British people living elsewhere in the European Union.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said May’s proposal showed progress but many questions remained.

"It was a good start but it was also not the breakthrough, to put it conservatively," Merkel said at a joint news conference with French President Emmanuel Macron after an EU summit in Brussels.

"It became clear during the discussion last night that we have a long path ahead of us. And the 27 (other EU countries), especially Germany and France, will be well prepared, we will not allow ourselves to be divided."

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