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A working christmas

I can’t say I had the most relaxing Christmas of all time but it was definitely interesting. I have been following the Brexit story very closely and so I have done quite a lot of media especially in the run up to Christmas Eve, the day of the agreement.

This is an aspect of the job that requires great flexibility as you never know when you might be asked to participate in an interview or studio discussion.

Appearances on Channel 4, Sky News, BBC Radio Ulster, BBC World Service and Bloomberg kept me on my toes. One of the few upsides of Covid is that you can do all of this from the comfort of your living room.

I also agreed to do the Sunday news programme on RTE Radio One on the 27th of December, This Week with Justin McCarthy and Carol Coleman.

This meant having to find time to read what I could about the Agreement on Christmas Day and St Stephens Day. The usual briefings for major agreements like this were not available. In a way, the Covid lockdown, which by then was looking inevitable, helped because there were not that many distractions.

The agreement is 1200 pages long and the first thing I looked for was the structure of the agreement. In fact, there were three agreements and about a dozen declarations. I read through the parts that I thought I could understand and the parts that I thought people would be interested in.

I came to the conclusion that it was a foundation document upon which would be built the future relationship between the EU and the UK, floor by floor, in the years to come.

RTE was fairly quiet on the 27th December and I was on after Paul Reid. His shocking assessment of where we were with Covid meant that it was unlikely anyone would be particularly interested in what I had to say about the Brexit agreement.

Nevertheless, going in to the studio helps for a better engagement with the interviewer. You can, for example, tell when the interviewer is running out of time and therefore make sure that you include whatever points you wanted to make before you are cut off.

BBC World Service asked me if I would do an interview on New Years Day at 7.30am which I was happy to do. We have a new dog who is waking at around 6 every morning so I knew I’d be up anyway. They then rang back and asked if I wouldn’t mind moving to a 6am slot. I explained about the dog. He would wake at 6, I would let him out into the garden, and then feed him and then possibly have to let him out into the garden again. There was no way I would be able to do 6am.

So we settled on 6.30am!

Meanwhile, it seems very few people involved in EU Trade had any type of a break. Just as the EU UK relationship was being finally settled, the EU China Investment Agreement was finalised on December 28th after 7 years of negotiation.

I attended an online meeting on the 30th for members of the Trade Committee where we received a briefing from the EU Commission on the benefits of the Agreement. Naturally, many members raised the question of the arrest that week of 50 Hong Kong democracy activists as well as the treatmetn of the Uighir population in Xinjiang. I also raised the appalling case of Richard O’Halloran, an Irish national who has been under house arrest without charge since February 2019. It is fair to say that it is unlikely that this agreement will be ratified by the European Parliament in a hurry.

After a year like no other and a Christmas like no other, I wish you all a happy new year and hopefully a return to some kind of normality, including a proper Christmas 2021.

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