2020 was the year of Covid 19. It was unknown in humans under 12 months ago and yet came to dominate our lives.
Many have lost friends and family members. Others suffer from long Covid or have seen their livelihoods ruined. It continues to inflict appalling suffering around the world.
As a developed 21st century country, in which so much can be taken for granted, we have had to relearn that immediate threats can suddenly emerge for which there are no simple cures and for which we need to work together to find solutions.
No one likes Tier 4 restrictions – least of all in Horsham. In some ways I am relieved that people rile against them – our traditions of liberty are deep. I wouldn’t want to live in a nation that accepted these restrictions without thought.
However we also have a tradition of helping each other in common purpose and the new strain of Covid requires a response. Our local hospitals and medics are doing a tremendous job but they need our support. Pioneering NHS work is saving lives through new therapeutics. We are leading the world in getting vaccines approved and a roll-out underway. For a few months more we will have to continue to be agile in fighting a virus that has evolved to become more infectious. We may alas have to continue to live for a short period with restrictions on our lives. We can though start 2021 knowing that we have embarked on the path out of this nightmare.
Meanwhile (and despite Covid) we have an EU deal!
Notwithstanding the high principles on which the EU was founded and its success in forging the single market, the British relationship as a member of a Bloc set on a path to political union was never easy.
The United Kingdom is once again fully in control of its own destiny. A tough and successful negotiation has delivered tariff and quota free access for our goods to the single European market. It is the EU’s biggest ever free trade deal. I am confident that with this amicable resolution further progress will be made in other areas in coming months.
This is a new beginning for the UK. The referendum has been honoured. The EU deal is one of nearly 60 free trade treaties we have entered around the world. Independent analysis published by CEBR this week projects the UK economy to grow beyond its EU peers in the decades ahead.
Shorn of the friction resulting from the long drawn out debate on EU membership we must build a close relationship with our European friends and allies, even as we seek new opportunities. Our future lies in our own hands. It is a truly exciting moment carrying great promise and great responsibility.