Fittingly, perhaps, the white cliffs of Dover were shrouded in fog on Brexit Day.

As the clock struck 11 the country reverberated to a mixture of cheers and groans; hearts from John O’Groats to Land’s End were either lifted or lowered, depending on your view.

In the shadow of Westminster in Parliament Square, the Brexiteers began a party through to dawn, dubbed a “celebration of democracy”. Campaigners had modified a cart to create “Little Ben” with a small church bell to ring in the new era.

Crowds gathered around the statue of Winston Churchill. Bells were rung and drums beaten as revellers sang and punched the air as, from their point of view, “Independence Day” had finally arrived.

Nigel Farage, the Brexit Party leader, not given to understatement, declared: "At last, the day comes when we break free. A massive victory for the people against the Establishment."

A few yards down Whitehall, illuminated in the Union colours of red, white and blue, the atmosphere was a little bit more restrained but just as joyous as Boris Johnson toasted the “new dawn,” as he put it, with ministers and officials who had helped push Brexit over the line.

A projected clock onto Downing St’s façade counted down the final hours, minutes and seconds of Britain’s long goodbye to the Euro-club after a 47-year relationship.

On a day bursting with symbolism, within No 10 Tory high command celebrated not with French champagne and Brie but English sparkling wine and Shropshire Blue.

In contrast, pro-EU campaigners cut dejected figures as they paced around London. As one man walked through the crowd with an EU flag draped over his shoulders, another carrying the Union flag shouted at him: "Go away loser!"

At Holyrood a "Missing EU Already" rally was staged while across Scotland more flags and banners marked Shine a Light for Europe vigils. In Glasgow, the famous Duke of Wellington statue jauntily donned his usual traffic cone but one that was decorated in EU colours.

On the Irish border, anti-Brexit campaigners unveiled a new billboard declaring: “The fight goes on."

And outside British embassies in European capitals pro-EU supporters held silent vigils, lamenting the UK’s departure.

Earlier, the Prime Minister addressed the nation, insisting Brexit was a beginning, a moment of renewal and “recaptured sovereignty”. He acknowledged the deep division Brexit had caused and insisted it was “my job to bring this country together now and take us forward”.

Mr Johnson spoke of Britain now having the “power of independent thought and action” and insisted that post-Brexit the country “whatever the bumps in the road ahead” would succeed.

His address to the nation followed a special meeting of the Cabinet in the National Glass Centre in Sunderland; chosen symbolically, of course, because it was in the north east of England that the tide of the referendum night turned in June 2016.

The PM repeated his mantra of turning a page on the Brexit divisions and pledging himself and his Government to “levelling up” opportunity across the whole of the UK.

Before Cabinet, Mr Johnson engaged in the kind of idiosyncratic photocalls he revels in.

He visited Sunderland University's automotive and manufacturing centre and clambered into a racing car, noting to laughter: "Normally, I'm not allowed in, I need a block and tackle to get me out."

As he shuffled uncomfortably in the 200kg student-built machine, the PM admitted: "I have just got a motorbike. It's a complete crisis, a midlife crisis. I have a 125cc, it's the biggest joy of my life.” He then quickly reminded himself: “Apart from Brexit, of course."

Underlining, from his perspective, this was a day of upbeat, jolly photos, Mr Johnson declined to answer a question from a pesky journalist who had the temerity to ask if he had split the country in two with Brexit. "I will talk to you later," he mumbled.

At the Glass Centre, the PM raised eyebrows further when in the heat of the glass-blowing room he took off his jacket, rolled up his sleeves and began to puff.

In what some might take as yet another Brexit metaphor, his creation - the product of a 16-second exhalation - was deliberately smashed on the floor by the instructor.

As the pieces were swept up, the PM quipped: "It's OK, they are going to recycle it."

In one unexpected move amid the Brexit Day drama, Mr Johnson sacked Clare Perry O’Neill as President of COP26, the global climate change summit in Glasgow in November. Announcing the abrupt decision, the Cabinet Office said the PM thanked her for her role which, going forward, would be a “ministerial role”.

On the other side of the Channel in Brussels, the mood, for the most part, was not so upbeat as the British flag was lowered from flagpoles outside the EU headquarters of the Justus Lipsius building and the European Parliament.

The sense of loss following the tears, hugs and rendition of Auld Lang Syne of the parliamentary farewell on Thursday continued with Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission President, reflecting on how it had been a “very emotional day,” adding: “It is the story of old friends and new beginnings now."

Leo Varadkar, the Taoiseach, who only days ago had boasted Britain would lose out in the trade talks because the EU was, population-wise, eight times bigger than the UK, adopted a more magnanimous tone, stating: "We'll say goodbye to an old friend embarking on an adventure, their own tryst of destiny. We do hope it works out for them.

“But if it does not, there will always be a seat for the United Kingdom at the European table."

On Twitter, Donald Tusk, the former European Council President, avoided any reference to hell and also exuded a more in-sorrow-than-in-anger tone, tweeting: "My dear British friends. We were, we are, and we will always be a Community. And no Brexit will ever change that."

But perhaps the most politically poignant comment came from Emmanuel Macron. The French President pointed to the significance of a major member of the EU deciding to break loose and the potential, or should that be threat, of another member following suit.

In his own address to the nation, Mr Macron told his countrymen and women: "At midnight, for the first time in 70 years, a country will leave the European Union. It is a historic alarm signal that must be heard in each of our countries."

Of course, as the new dawn breaks no one, in practical terms, will notice the difference as the status quo with the EU continues for 11 months; it will be more evolution than revolution.

The real moment of awakening will come in December when the transition period ends and either Britain glides seamlessly into a smooth transition beyond the loving embrace of Brussels or it tumbles helplessly over the cliff-edge without a trade deal into the cold reality of going solo.