Brexit and the British-made Covid vaccine will create a “trampoline for the national bounce back” in 2021, Boris Johnson said on Friday.
In a New Year message to Telegraph readers, the Prime Minister says “a year of change and hope” lies ahead, with a clear route laid out for beating coronavirus.
Mr Johnson acknowledges that the “devilish” virus still means the world remains “in the same wretched state” as it was last year in many respects.
However, once the Oxford University/AstraZeneca vaccine roll-out is up to speed, and the virus is in retreat, “we can this year seize opportunities to transform our country” thanks to the success of the Brexit trade deal.
On Thursday 55,892 people tested positive for coronavirus, the third new daily record in the past week, with another 964 deaths.
Mr Johnson said the “reality of the challenge ahead” includes further job losses because of the “bitter economic consequences of being forced to fight covid with lockdowns”.
It will require “courage, patience and discipline” to get through the next few months, Mr Johnson warns in today’s newspaper, before the return of the “life that we have been forced to leave behind”.
For the first time, Mr Johnson suggests the pandemic might have changed the role of the state in the immediate future. He says that the Oxford University vaccine provides “a lesson for this country and our way ahead” because it “would not exist without Government intervention”.
He describes it as a “brilliant collaboration between state activism and free market capitalism” and suggests that in future “we will need the state to lead” by investing in infrastructure, education and technology that will encourage businesses to invest.
His message is likely to prompt debate with the most ardent free-marketers in the Conservative Party, who believe the state should intervene as little as possible.
Mr Johnson says that in the final days of 2020 “two big things suddenly went right” as the Oxford vaccine was approved and a Brexit trade deal was agreed.
He writes: “With a great Brexit deal, and with a cheap and effective UK-made vaccine, we are creating the potential trampoline for the national bounce back.
“In the distance and through the darkness we can see the brightly illuminated pub-sign of our destination – the normal convivial life that we have been forced to leave behind and that is so vital for our economy. We are not there yet, but we are not far off; and most important, we can see with ever growing clarity how we are going to get there.”
Lauding the Brexit trade deal negotiated by Lord Frost, Mr Johnson said they had defied nay-sayers who had insisted it was not possible to have your cake and eat it.
“Maybe it would be unduly provocative to say that this is a cake-ist treaty,” he says, “but it is certainly from the patisserie department.”
Holding out the hand of friendship to the EU after Britain formally left the single market and customs union, Mr Johnson says Britain will not leave Europe “in the lurch” and will continue to be the second-biggest contributor to Nato.
European goods will still flow into Britain because we have not lost “our massive appetite for their Maseratis or gewurtztraminer”, referring to sports cars and a variety of wine grape.
Mr Johnson, who was brought up partly in Brussels and was for many years considered a Europhile, also points out that not everything about the UK’s membership of the EU had been negative.
It had provided “a safe European home” when Britain had lost its way in the early 1970s for example, however, Britain had changed “beyond all recognition” since then, with a global outlook constrained by EU membership.
Brexit, he writes, means the chance to “turbocharge those sectors in which we excel, to do things differently and to do them better”.