LONDON — The U.K. prime minister thanked British scientists, health care workers and the public for their efforts against the coronavirus pandemic in his New Year’s message, pledging 2021 will be “an amazing moment” for the U.K.
This was a year like no other. Emerging from last December’s general election with a large majority, Boris Johnson entered the final stretch of the Brexit negotiations with sufficient parliamentary support to push for the type of Brexit he wanted. Negotiations went right to the wire but the prime minister managed to strike a trade and cooperation deal with the EU on Christmas Eve which became U.K. law in the early hours of Thursday.
But 2020 was also the year in which the coronavirus pandemic took the lives of more than 82,000 people in the U.K., plunged GDP, forced Johnson to impose two national lockdowns and other ongoing restrictions against his most basic instincts, and even sent him to intensive care back in April, during the darkest hours for Downing Street.
Although the coronavirus continues to strain the country’s National Health Service, Johnson said Thursday that the approval of the vaccine developed by the University of Oxford and drugmaker AstraZeneca, which can be produced cheaply and kept at room temperature, “offers literally a new lease of life to people in this country and around the world.”
“As the sun rises tomorrow on 2021 we have the certainty of those vaccines. Pioneered in a U.K. that is also free to do things differently, and if necessary better, than our friends in the EU,” he added.
Johnson said “there will be plenty of people who will be only too happy to say goodbye to the grimness of 2020,” but this year has also shown “the courage and self-sacrifice” of NHS staff and care home workers, the “renewed spirit of volunteering,” and breakthroughs by British scientists tackling COVID-19.
2021 will see Britain “free” to do trade deals around the world, “turbocharge” its “ambition to be a science superpower from biosciences to artificial intelligence,” tackle climate change, and bounce back from the pandemic, Johnson added.
“We have our freedom in our hands and it is up to us to make the most of it,” he said. “And I think 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.”
Above all, the prime minister concluded, 2021 will be “the year when we will eventually do those everyday things that now seem lost in the past.”
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