SO THAT'S it...the end after 46 years of our membership of one of the world's biggest trading blocs.

At 11pm here on Friday, or midnight in Brussels, we officially cease being an EU member state. In divorce terms the decree nisi has been delivered, and come December that will become the decree absolute. Then, in theory, we will go our separate ways with new partners – in the case of the UK with a brash American.

But in reality, the UK and the EU will remain joined forever through trade, proximity and a shared view of world affairs very different to the bullish approach of the United States.

Everything will change, but because of the transition agreement, for now everything will stay the same for most people. The UK will not longer take part in any EU institutions; London will continue paying the bills but will not attend ministerial or other meetings.

UK members of the European parliament lose their seats, with a nice pay off for those who have been there for a long time. There are already MEPs from other countries to take up their places and offices. Their generous travel perks will end once their offices are cleared.

For the rest of us, things will be much the same. The UK will remain subject to all EU rules, including the CAP. Businesses will still be able to export as an EU member state and benefit from its global trade deals. But as time passes, we will have less and less cause to feel European. By the time the Ryder Cup comes around in the US next year for example, it will feel a bit irrelevant supporting a team playing under the blue flag and name of Europe.

Boris Johnson, having lost his case for ringing Big Ben to declare freedom, will nonetheless try to spin departure as a cause for national celebration. This ignores the reality that both Scotland and Northern Ireland voted against Brexit. Celebration will be largely an English event, with Scotland arguably losing out worst of all. Unlike people in Ulster, Scots do not have an automatic route to retaining their EU citizenship by securing an Irish passport.

The UK's official departure from the EU has to be a trigger for realism. The only show in town now is trying to find a way to make a success of Brexit. Those that voted 'leave' believe this will be easy, and they have every right to believe that, having persuaded a narrow majority to support them.

Others can see big obstacles, not least in securing an effective trade deal with the EU-27. But rather than revel in problems, they need to back the campaign to make this work the best it can. To do otherwise really would be a case of cutting off noses to spite faces. The remain argument is over; it will probably be a full generation before the issue of rejoining the EU surfaces, unless this happens in Scotland in the wake of any decision on independence.

With the Brexit decision taken, the focus will switch to a trade deal with the EU-27. For agriculture the ideal outcome would be one that leaves things much as they are now, in terms of markets access to the EU. It would be a bonus if this also limited cheap food imports that do not comply with EU rules. Securing that would be a big ask, given the government's determination to secure global trade deals.

On trade we are getting mixed messages. The Chancellor, Sajid Javid, claimed UK industry would not align with EU rules. Then the Brexit Secretary, Stephen Barclay, said the aim was a zero tariff, zero quota deal in which the UK would not diverge from EU regulations 'just for the sake of it'.

The Defra minister, Theresa Villiers, has promised to keep out chlorinated chicken and hormone-treated beef, but these are symbols that avoid the real issue of standards. The Irish prime minister, Leo Varadker, claimed the UK would be weak against the EU 27 – a strange comment given that if any country needs a successful deal, it is Ireland.

With or without the bongs of Big Ben, there is little point in celebrating a Brexit victory. A mile marker has been passed, but after three plus years the real battle is only beginning. A successful outcome will demand pragmatism, reality and a lack of gloating on both sides.