Last week, with the clock ticking and the lorries piling up in Kent, the UK and EU finally agreed a trade deal, thus avoiding a catastrophic no-deal situation.

By the time you read this column, Parliament is expected to have passed the agreement and a new phase in Britain’s relationship with Europe will have begun.

Like most people, I’ve had better things to do than spend Christmas wading through the 1200-odd pages of the document. But that hasn’t stopped many from offering their opinions on what has been agreed.

At the weekend, I read the coverage in The Sunday Telegraph and The Observer and the analysis could not have been more divergent: the British economy was either facing a golden era of growth or an irreparable decline in the decades ahead. Clearly, both those statements can’t be correct.

What can we say with certainty at this point? Only that a deal is better than no-deal, and that any trade deal with the EU is not as good as the one we had as a member of the European Union.

Where the deal we’ve got sits between those two statements, only time will tell. There remains plenty to discuss: the deal doesn’t really mention services, and financial services especially: the fishing question, meanwhile, has essentially been parked for another discussion in five years’ time.

What is also certain is that Europe as an issue is unlikely to go away any time soon. Although we’re now out of Europe, we’re still only 30km away from France.

That proximity to the continent has defined our politics for centuries and will continue to do so for centuries beyond.

Switzerland, a country in perpetual negotiation with the EU, is a good model for what immediately lies ahead: rather than cutting red tape, the trade deal sets up a new maze of partnership councils and technical committees to navigate.

Some of the changes Brexit offers are good ones. The new Environmental Land Management scheme means an end to farmers receiving subsidies for owning land, instead being paid to protect wildlife and habitats.

But many are detrimental. Take working in Europe, for example: I teach on a writing course in Spain, but now I’ll have to apply for a work visa to do so. There’ll be scores of individual changes the deal makes like this, which we’ll only discover incrementally.

I voted remain in 2016. I’m sad to leave. But the only thing that is safe to say about Brexit is that it is too early to tell how the future will pan out.