This time last year, Brexit was the only challenge the Gibraltar government was expecting to have to deal with, said chief minister, Fabian Picardo, in his televised New Year Message on Monday evening, but the Covid-19 pandemic meant that "our departure from the EU almost faded into the back of our minds as we watched, almost powerless, as the virus spread".
In March, Picardo said, he chaired the toughest meetings of the Cabinet of his time in office, and they were called upon to make some of the toughest decisions they had ever made. "I have hated every decision my government has taken to curtail your constitutional freedoms. But I am certain that the actions we took in the first week of March last year saved lives. And in taking those difficult decisions, I reached out to the Opposition. United, we faced those early Covid challenges together," he said. He then spoke about the vaccine and how it had brought new hope "which will allow us to move on".
Moving on, of course, means Brexit which is by no means over in Gibraltar even though the transition period has now ended. This week the first ferries arrived from Algeciras carrying goods of animal origin from the UK, which due to Brexit can no longer be transported across the land border. This cumbersome situation is just one of those the Gibraltar government is trying to avoid as it negotiates its own future relationship with the European Union.
The chief minister said he is "very happy" that they have been able to reach the in-principle agreement which was announced on New Year's Eve, and which he said covers all the key issues for Gibraltar without crossing a single one of the red lines on sovereignty, jurisdiction and control.
"And so it is with hope above everything else that we embark on the rest of 2021. That new hope I spoke of earlier. Hope that we can start to leave behind this terrible pandemic. Hope that we can avoid the loss of any more precious lives. And the hope that we can together go forward into a new, much brighter, post-pandemic and post- Brexit world. A world in which we will be closer than ever to Britain. With the right to passport our services into the UK. And as part of the UK's new trade deals with the world. And yet with an enduring connection with the EU. Securing our right to unhindered mobility and seeking new arrangements to trade in goods.
"I cannot pretend the hard times are over yet," he said. "But they will be".