In a few hours' time, a member State - the second strongest economy and first military power - will pull out of the European integration project. Nobody wins with this split. And those who will be most frustrated by it in the future will, no doubt, be the British. They have chosen to abruptly cut themselves off from their natural economic surroundings and break with the most developed bloc in the world, in which successive governments in London have had a great influence for the last 47 years.
Boris Johnson has achieved this withdrawal with nationalist and populist discourse, full of emotion and optimism and ignoring statistics and forecasts. But an open economy like Britain's thrives on exporting services, being an investment platform and offering maximum legal security. It needs to receive qualified workers and to keep connected with its most important market. Uncertainty starts to take its toll, especially when the transition period agreed with the EU, when European regulations continue to apply, will only last for 11 months.
There's no time to negotiate a permanent trade agreement with a Union of 27 member States. In 2020 we're going to see more sudden shifts and implausible arguments in British politics. The unity of the country itself is weakened by its exit from the EU, as is its global influence. As Hugo Dixon explained, they are recovering sovereignty but losing power.
The rest of us Europeans can't just wave goodbye. The EU is losing one of its engines, the country that is most in favour of taking advantage of the opportunities offered by financial globalisation, with an admirable vision of a nation State anchored by its parliamentary democracy and rule of law. If it hadn't been for two serious crises, affecting the common currency and immigration policy, the result of the referendum called by David Cameron would have been different. The Union has to recover a utopian component with which to tackle the anti-European voices from extreme ideologies. The task of relaunching European patriotism is tough and will one day involve winning back a new generation of Britons as partners.