The New Year is a time to reflect on what has passed and to look ahead to the opportunities to come. And this year, as I consider all that 2017 has in store, I believe those opportunities are greater than ever. For we have made a momentous decision and set ourselves on a new direction. And if 2016 was the year you voted for that change, this is the year we start to make it happen.
I know that the referendum last June was divisive at times. I know, of course, that not everyone shared the same point of view, or voted in the same way. But I know too that, as we face the opportunities ahead of us, our shared interests and ambitions can bring us together.
We all want to see a Britain that is stronger than it is today. We all want a country that is fairer so that everyone has the chance to succeed. We all want a nation that is safe and secure for our children and grandchildren. These ambitions unite us, so that we are no longer the 52% who voted Leave and the 48% who voted Remain, but one great union of people and nations with a proud history and a bright future.
So when I sit around the negotiating table in Europe this year, it will be with that in mind – the knowledge that I am there to get the right deal – not just for those who voted to Leave – but for every single person in this country.
Of course, the referendum laid bare some further divisions in our country – between those who are prospering, and those who are not; those who can easily buy their own home, send their children to a great school, find a secure job, and those who cannot; in short, those for whom our country works well, and those for whom it does not.
This is the year we need to pull down these barriers that hold people back, securing a better deal at home for ordinary, working people. The result will be a truly united Britain, in which we are all united in our citizenship of this great nation; united in the opportunities that are open to all our people; and united by the principle that it is only your talent and hard work that should determine your future.
After all, it is through unity that our people have achieved great things: through our precious union of nations – England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland; through our union of people – from sports teams to armed forces; businesses to charities; schools to hospitals; and, above all, through our union of communities and families.
Of course, it isn’t just big, global events that define a year – it is the personal things. 2017 might be the year you start your first job or buy your first home. It might be the year your children start school or go off to university, or that you retire after a lifetime of hard work. These things – life’s milestones – are the things that bind us, whoever we are.
As the fantastic MP Jo Cox, who was so tragically taken from us last year, put it: “We are far more united and have far more in common than that which divides us.
We have a golden opportunity to demonstrate that – to bring this country together as never before, so that whoever you are, wherever you live, our politics, economy and society work for you, not just a privileged few.
So as we look ahead to a year of opportunity and unity, let me wish you and your family a peaceful, prosperous and happy New Year.