Next year should be less fraught than 2020. In January 2020 there was no firm evidence of the possible arrival of Covid-19 and little suspicion that a no-deal Brexit would become a major threat to businesses in Northern Ireland.
The combination of Brexit and Covid-19, reaching a peak as 2020 nears its end, makes an overview of prospects for 2021 unusually difficult.
Standing on the dockside in Belfast, Larne, Londonderry and Warrenpoint, observers might be forgiven if they have only belatedly appreciated the logic of the EU Withdrawal Agreement, which struggled to find mechanisms to allow NI to have a more favourable outcome.
Leaving the EU might have resulted in a reintroduction of the land border stretching from Carlingford to Muff.
With some reservations, the agreed objective was that a hard border should be avoided.
There was no ambition to have commercial businesses crossing a land frontier of the kind that disappeared in the late 1960s.
After the result of the EU referendum was known, the search began for a continuing more open border arrangement.
Every suggestion about an unfettered border appealed readily to local businesses.
The snag for local businesses and local shoppers was that an outcome with no border between north and south created the prospect that, for other (international) commercial traders, no Irish border meant that there would be an open door for other traders to enter the EU through NI or to enter the UK from the southern side of the border.
An unregulated border was not an acceptable result.
For about three years after the referendum civil servants struggled with regulatory arrangements to get round the problem.
Various 'backstops' were designed but, ultimately, found to be unacceptable or too expensive.
Now, in 2020, the border problem has been settled by arrangements that should be cheaper to implement than the ill-conceived backstop.
Even better, the alternative arrangements should give businesses here the advantage of remaining within the UK while enjoying the advantage of a concession treating us as remaining in the EU for trading purposes.
If the Withdrawal Agreement operates to NI's advantage, then the outcome will have met the objectives of the political designers.
In late 2020 the immediate implementation difficulties have placed a question over the potential success of the final outcome.
The final stages of Brexit have wide-ranging implications. A commercial border down the Irish Sea means a series of commercial hurdles.
Tariffs must be charged on goods from Britain to here where the goods are 'at risk' of onward shipment into the Republic of Ireland (subject to refunds if there is no onward shipment, along with the necessary documentation).
Most critically, imports of everyday supplies for shops here must be allowed, using 'trusted trader status' to move freely.
However, to avoid any potential breaches of duty (if goods are going on to places outside NI) some degree of supervisory checking will be needed.
Then, potentially, goods manufactured here but leaving must avoid being confused with goods manufactured in the Republic of Ireland being exported to Britain.
Customs checks may be needed at ports such as Stranraer and Liverpool.
Into this more complicated setting, border checking arrangements must be added.
Customs controlled areas in the ports (and possibly airports) must be defined.
Traffic management for vehicles which need to formally pass a customs check will mean a formalised and supervised system of vehicle movements.
Warrenpoint will upgrade from a more informal shipping port to a much more ordered regime.
As 2020 draws to a close, the immediate difficulties of developing agreed working arrangements and minimising the introduction of new formal paperwork have created the impression of a labour intensive obstacle course.
The advantages for us remaining linked to the trading conditions of the EU are not strongly in evidence.
An adjustment period to new arrangements was inevitable.
Selling Northern Ireland as having the advantages of being part of the UK, as well as enjoying trading arrangements as a continuing part of the EU, is a challenge for the business community.
It remains to be proven.