THE muted manner of Britain’s departure from the European Union on the stroke of 11pm last night did not reflect the historical significance of this milestone.
Any celebrations appeared to be restrained while Boris Johnson, an architect of the successful Leave campaign, has become more reserved.
And so they should have been. For, while Britain has now formally left the EU, the wranglings over the past three and a half years were, believe it or not, more to do with procedure than policy.
Just the precursor, now the hard work begins – namely whether the Government can strike a mutually beneficial trade deal with Brussels by the end of 2020 that will come to define Brexit.
Both Mr Johnson, and his EU counterparts, appear to have sound intentions. But the timetable is ambitious – possibly unrealistic – and the disagreements plain.
But, and this is crucial, the toxicity of the Brexit debate is, thankfully, less pervasive – hopefully wiser heads like the Archbishop of York are prevailing with their counsel – and Mr Johnson can move forward with the confidence, and Commons majority, which so eluded Theresa May.
Hopefully the more measured and mature debate will continue as the Government, with others, looks to maximise the opportunities that were promised by Mr Johnson, and others, prior to the 2016 referendum.
As the PM prepares to reshape his government, he needs to lead by example and attempt to work across the political divide – especially if Brexit is not to hasten another divisive vote on Scottish independence.
He also needs to appoint a dedicated trade team to lead the talks while freeing up other Ministers to focus on a much-neglected domestic policy agenda. And, more importantly, the country at large needs to remember this. Britain has not left Europe. It has only separated itself from an EU which proved incapable of democratic reform.