Boris Johnson has delivered his New Year message saying 2021 will herald the return of “things that seem lost in the past”.
The prime minister said the UK now has “our freedom in our hands” thanks to the Brexit deal and claimed in 2021 “it will be the overwhelming instinct of the people of this country to come together as one United Kingdom – England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland working together to express our values around the world.”
In a five minute video posted on Twitter Johnson said “there will be plenty of people who will be only too happy to say goodbye to the grimness of 2020” though he was quick to remind “that this was also the year when we rediscovered a spirit of togetherness, of community…in which we banged saucepans to celebrate the courage and self sacrifice of our NHS staff and care home workers”.
‘The biggest crisis we’ve faced for generations’
He called the pandemic “the biggest crisis we’ve faced for generations” and cautioned of the continuing “hard struggle” given the surge in Covid infections and rising numbers of deaths.
“But as the sun rises tomorrow on 2021 we have the certainty of those vaccines,” said Johnson. “I believe 2021 is above all, the year when we will eventually do those everyday things that now seem lost in the past.
“Bathed in a rosy glow of nostalgia, going to the pub, concerts, theatres, restaurants, or simply holding hands with our loved ones in the normal way. We are still a way off from that, there are tough weeks and months ahead.
“But we can see that illuminated sign that marks the end of the journey, and even more important, we can see with growing clarity how we are going to get there. And that is what gives me such confidence about 2021.”
Gibraltar may join Schengen area
Earlier today (Thursday), Johnson “wholeheartedly” welcomed a deal done between the UK and Spain regarding Gibraltar’s “future relationship with the EU” after the British overseas territory had been left out of the deal announced on Christmas Eve.
The agreement could see Gibraltar become part of the Schengen area of European countries defined by open borders and freedom of movement. Foreign secretary Dominic Raab said agreement has been reached on a “political framework” that will form the basis of a future treaty.
“The UK has always been, and will remain, totally committed to the protection of the interests of Gibraltar and its British sovereignty,” tweeted the prime minister.
‘We are the quintessential European civilisation’ – Johnson
The UK ends its 48-year participation in the European project of nation states tonight at 11pm GMT.
MPs had just a few hours to debate and pass into law the 1,200 page deal that took four-and-a-half years to negotiate.
Just after midnight today, the House of Lords gave notice of the Queen’s approval with a tweet posted at 00.34 stating: “#HouseofLords is notified of Royal Assent to the European Union (Future Relationship) Act.”
During Wednesday’s debate the prime minister said “This is not the end of Britain as a European country. We are in many ways the quintessential European civilisation… and we will continue to be that.”
Johnson Snr seeks French passport to ‘reclaim what I already have’
Meanwhile Twitter users have been responding to the news that Stanley Johnson, father of Boris, has applied for a passport from France in order “to maintain his ties with the European Union after Brexit”.
Johnson Snr is a former MEP and though he voted to remain in the 2016 referendum, he subsequently said he had changed his mind and backed Britain quitting the bloc.
Commenting on his application for an EU passport, 80-year-old Johnson spoke in French to RTL radio, as reported by Reuters: “If I understand it correctly, I am French.
“My mother was born in France, her mother was totally French as was her grandfather. So for me it is about reclaiming what I already have. And that makes me very happy.”
His happiness is at odds with the sadness felt by Calais shopkeepers from Brexit and the expected loss of business from British visitors, who account for up to 30% of sales for some retailers in the French port.