THIS morning, for the first time in almost half a century, the UK is no longer a member of the European Communities, as they were when we joined, or Union, as it became after the Maastricht Treaty.

That will be source of profound regret for some, of celebration for others, and for most of us, uncertainty, if not trepidation, about what lies ahead. In each case, however, this is above all a time for pragmatism.

The UK may now be set upon a different path from the EU, but the degree to which it will diverge will not become clear for months, indeed years, to come. It may take decades before it is clear whether we are heading in an entirely new direction or, like other European nations currently outwith the EU, on a parallel, perhaps fairly closely aligned, path.

Setting aside previous differences is essential if this journey is to proceed as smoothly as possible. It was welcome that the former Brexit minister Steve Baker should say this was no time for ardent Leavers to gloat, and should recognise that many are saddened by the outcome. By the same token, the most fervent Remainers should accept that the new circumstances will not be improved by constant carping and doom-mongering.

Scotland, where a sizeable majority voted against Brexit, has different needs and concerns from much of the rest of the UK. The priority must now be to focus not on previous preferences, but on protecting those interests.

That will entail the government at Holyrood working with Westminster in order to make the new settlement work. Those whose ultimate goal is independence need, for the moment, to focus on the immediate challenges facing Scotland. Ensuring a stable future for agriculture, healthcare, immigration needs, fisheries and a host of other areas will mean making responsible choices, rather than obstruction in order to further division, or foolish gestural politics about EU flags and the like.

Similarly, Westminster must demonstrate genuine respect for the way in which those sectors may require special attention, accommodation and support, rather than attempting to strongarm Holyrood. Boris Johnson’s government must also adjust to the fact that, if those who – like most Scots – voted Remain should accept Brexit and move forward, there can be no justification for stirring up English nativist feeling.

The national interest of Scotland, England and the UK as a whole will be served only by a willingness to accept, with equal vigour and honesty, the opportunities and difficulties we all now face, not by amplifying or denying them.

It may be that those challenges will increase the pressure for independence; if the Prime Minister intends to maintain a United Kingdom, let alone forge the new spirit of unity and optimism his rhetoric suggests, he will have to acknowledge them – as he has done for those in the north of England. From today, it is irrelevant that they were largely Leave voters, and Scots largely Remain voters: vital decisions need to be made – especially in areas where EU funding or regulation was most significant – to safeguard communities, livelihoods and economic stability.

This is a time for humility, cooperation and practical action from those who, like Mr Johnson, successfully advocated this new direction in our politics, and one for acceptance from those who opposed it. The day-to-day priorities of voters all across the UK have been obscured by years of wrangling on this issue; its resolution, for good or ill, makes it the more urgent that politicians across the board return their focus to them. And whether it proves to be for good or ill will depend on a clear-eyed view of the real priorities of most voters.

There is no longer any point in painting life outside the EU as a triumph or a disaster: it is where we are. What matters now is to picture the ways in which we can make a success of the new landscape, and to draw up plans for overcoming the problems, and seizing the opportunities, that it presents.