ON the day the UK leaves the European Union a group gathered in Winchester to highlight that it is “better to light a candle than to curse the darkness”.

Around 70 people met at the Buttercross, just hours before the 11pm exit time, to signal that “nothing will stop us defending the values we hold dear”.

The group have joined others round the country in shining a light “symbolising the freedoms and protections we fight for and our pledge to unlock our future from Brexit’s toxic legacy”.

Event organiser Jill Therkelsen said: “In leaving the EU, I believe the loss to this country is incalculable.

“For 47 years we have built up trust between us, and tolerance and respect for each other’s rich and diverse cultures. Each country has much to give and this country has been made all the richer for it.

“We have learnt lessons from each other and as a result, there is harmony between us instead of a prior somewhat combative relationship!

“We have benefitted greatly from the free movement of goods and services across national borders, creating a more influential economic block and in shared resources, especially in the area of research.

“Investing in research and innovation has helped us to compete globally and protected our unique social model. This has improved the daily lives of millions of people, for example, environmentally and in modernisation, here in Europe and globally - and has helped to solve some of the biggest societal challenges.

“Today, I am sad beyond words for all that, I and the British people, are about to lose. I will always be European. I cannot be anything other than European, but my message in Winchester today, and which will continue to be my message, is this: In the darkness that is Brexit: ‘we are not here to curse the darkness, but to light a candle that can guide us through that darkness to a safe and sane future’ - Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, often called the First Lady of the World.”

It comes as the University of Winchester has sent a message to its European staff and students.

A university spokesperson said: “We recognise what an unsettling and drawn-out process the last three and a half years has been, particularly for our staff and students from Europe.

“We would like to say again how much we love our European staff and students, as well as the partnerships we have across Europe. As a community, we deeply value each individual - wherever you are from, you will be welcomed and cherished at the University of Winchester.”

In the EU referendum Winchester voted to remain with 42,878 votes to stay in the union and 29,886 to leave.