Frank Langfitt

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Updated at 11:50 p.m. ET

Emmanuel Macron, a centrist politician who's never held elective office, and Marine Le Pen, the far-right firebrand who wants to take France out of the European Union, are expected to advance to next month's runoff for the presidency of the country, according to official results.

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In the electoral battle over populism in Western democracies, the score is tied 2-2.

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Today the United Kingdom formally told the European Union it is leaving, after decades of membership in the 28-nation political alliance and trading bloc. The move triggers an estimated two-year divorce process that will involve many months of tough negotiations and will launch Britain on a new, uncertain path.

Addressing the House of Commons in London, Prime Minister Theresa May said Brexit is an opportunity for her country to chart a new course, unencumbered by the bureaucracy of the multilateral organization based in Brussels.

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These are divisive times in the United Kingdom. Today, the Scottish Parliament voted to seek an independence referendum that could split the country apart. Tomorrow, the U.K. triggers Brexit, the process for breaking away from the European Union.

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