Life will never be quite the same for any of us after 2020.
When Boris Johnson appointed me Secretary of State for Northern Ireland in February, I was honoured to be given a chance to take forward the huge advances which have been made in Northern Ireland.
After a three-year absence of devolved government, the New Decade, New Approach deal struck in January 2020 ensured Northern Ireland politics was in a positive place; a place of hope.
The Irish Government played a key role alongside the UK government in working together with Northern Ireland's political leaders to bring about a deal to get the Executive up and running again.
Last Thursday, I was glad to meet Taoiseach Micheal Martin during his first official visit to Northern Ireland since taking up office. I am pleased that Mr Martin has re-appointed Simon Coveney as the Minister for Foreign Affairs and I very much look forward to continuing our good working relationship.
Of course, there were bound to be challenges as the new Executive settles into a rhythm of work, but there was, and still remains, a real sense of purpose and a determination that all the political parties would put their shoulder to the wheel.
Little did any of us realise that the first challenge, not only for the Executive but for all of us was dealing with the global coronavirus pandemic. Close working between the health departments and administrations across these islands was a vital tool in the effort to fight coronavirus.
Together with our health service professionals and the public, we put in place comprehensive measures to protect our families and communities across the island of Ireland. We also saw many young doctors and nurses fly home to Ireland and Northern Ireland from right across the world to use their knowledge and skills in helping fight this pandemic. We owe them a huge debt of gratitude.
Earlier last week, I had the opportunity to attend a virtual meeting of the British Irish Chamber of Commerce. As well as delivering our guarantee on unfettered access for Northern Ireland businesses to the whole of the UK market, it was clear from the conversations with key business partners that we must continue to work together to maximise future opportunities for all businesses across these islands.
The UK has left the European Union and we are now in the final six months of the transition period, which ends on December 31. During this time, it is important that we build upon the close relationships that we have.
In the ongoing UK-EU negotiations, we want a relationship with the EU that is based on friendly co-operation between sovereign equals and centred on free trade.
We want to strike the best, fairest deal with the EU as has been successfully done with other friendly countries like Canada or Australia.
Throughout those negotiations, and as we implement the protocol, our top priority remains to preserve the huge gains from the peace process and the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement.
The protocol is a practical solution which means there will not be a border on the island of Ireland.
It was also never intended, and does not include any provision for creating a border in the Irish Sea. The protocol says, it "should impact as little as possible on the everyday life of communities".
We will proceed in a way that can command the broadest possible support across the community. That means a consensual pragmatic approach that respects the integral links across the UK on which so many rely for the flow of goods, for their businesses and to live their daily lives, and protects both the UK Internal Market and the EU's Single Market.
At the end of this year, the process of transition to this new relationship will be complete, and the UK will chart a new course into the future, in control of our laws, our borders and our own trade for the first time in decades. But the Taoiseach was right when he observed last week that where we have common ground, we should work together to maximise the benefit for all.
That is why the UK government will guarantee in law that NI businesses will have unfettered access to the whole of the UK - there can be no tariffs on goods remaining within the UK customs territory and there will be no need for any new customs infrastructure in Northern Ireland.
But we also want to see those same businesses having the opportunity to trade with their partners across the island of Ireland, and vice-versa.
Finally, but importantly, looking ahead to 2021, we will also mark 100 years since the creation of Northern Ireland, and the formation of the United Kingdom as we know it today.
We want to use this opportunity to promote Northern Ireland on the world stage and celebrate its people, culture, traditions and enterprise as well as its vital contribution to the United Kingdom, the island of Ireland and internationally.
I look forward to working with the Irish Government in reflecting on our past, as we have done throughout this decade of commemorations, also celebrating what Northern Ireland has become and its bright future - a vibrant, peaceful place, brimming with opportunities.
We want to celebrate our unique people and their history, and provide a platform for renewed and even stronger cooperation between our two countries.
Brandon Lewis CBE MP is Secretary of State for Northern Ireland