Theresa May said ‘Brexit is crucial’ but ‘will not limit our ambitions’ in her New Year message
As well as Britain’s exit from the EU, she pledged to focus on issues affecting people’s daily lives, including schools, jobs, homes and hospitals.
The Prime Minister also referred to difficulties she has faced over the past 12 months with the snap election debacle, Cabinet resignations and continuing tensions over the divorce from Brussels.
She said that “any year brings its challenges” but the real test was “how you face them”.
Mrs May will face renewed pressures in the New Year with a vital reshuffle in the offing after the sacking of close ally Damian Green, more EU negotiations and pushing through flagship Brexit legislation.
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Making a success of Brexit is crucial but it will not be the limit of our ambitions
Meanwhile Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn used his New Year message to claim his party was “a Government in waiting”.
Mrs May said 2017 had been a “year of progress” for the UK and struck an upbeat tone for the coming 12 months.
She said it could be a time “of renewed confidence and pride in our country”. Whichever way people voted in the referendum, “most people just want the Government to get on and deliver a good Brexit”.
She added: “Making a success of Brexit is crucial but it will not be the limit of our ambitions.
Theresa May said 2017 had been a ‘year of progress’ for the UK
“We also have to carry on making a difference here and now on the issues that matter to people’s daily lives.
“That means building an economy fit for the future and taking a balanced approach to Government spending, so we get our debt falling but can also invest in the things that matter – our schools, our police and our precious NHS.”
In an apparent acknowledgement of her own problems, Mrs May said: “Of course any year brings its challenges – that is true for each of us personally, as much as for our country and the world.
“But the real test is not whether challenges come, it’s how you face them. Whether you allow a task to overcome you or tackle it head on with purpose and resolve.”
In recent months the PM has lost both Mr Green and former defence secretary Sir Michael Fallon over claims of inappropriate behaviour as sex pest allegations engulfed Westminster.
Mrs May said everyone had the “right to be treated with respect” and “that means safe workplaces, free from harassment”.
With politicians facing abuse on social media, Mrs May also called for a “public sphere where debate is constructive and courteous, and where we treat each other with decency”.
Mrs May also noted that 2018 is the 70th birthday of “our precious NHS”, defending the Conservatives’ record on the health service in the face of attacks from critics about a lack of funding.
She said: “We will continue to invest in our NHS and ensure it can deliver a world-class service now and for generations to come.”
With the issue of the environment high on the agenda in the wake of the BBC’s Blue Planet II nature series, Mrs May also underlined the Government’s green credentials, promising to “protect and enhance our natural environment for the next generation” and to use the Commonwealth heads of government meeting in April to press for action on tackling climate change and plastic waste in the world’s oceans.
Jeremy Corbyn declared Labour was ‘staking out the new centre ground’ in his New Year message
In his message, Mr Corbyn declared that Labour was “staking out the new centre ground” in politics and he was leading a “Government in waiting”.
He said the 2017 general election in which Mrs May lost her majority showed “the Establishment’s secret is out: they’re not as strong as they appear” and have “no idea how to fix their broken system or upgrade our stagnant economy”.
The veteran Left-winger said: “The old political consensus is finished. “We are staking out the new centre ground in British politics, backing the things which most people want but are blocked by vested interests.
“We are a Government in waiting, while the Conservatives are weak and divided and stuck in an outdated rut with no new ideas.”