A comparison of the speeches of Ursula von der Leyen and Boris Johnson summed up why Christmas Eve was such a shaming day. Von der Leyen spoke with feeling, vision and deep seriousness, Johnson with his usual silliness. Britain needs to repair the damage as soon as it can. It needs to rejoin the EU at the first opportunity, and Labour must make the case unequivocally. It must begin by abstaining in the vote on what must be seen as solely a Tory deal.David CurtisSolihull, West Midlands• The erection of a virtual border in the Irish Sea has been presented as an administrative matter of interest only to those trading between Great Britain and Ireland. But for one section of UK citizens it goes much further. Pet owners wanting to travel between Northern Ireland and Great Britain after 31 December will have to have their dog, cat or ferret microchipped and vaccinated against rabies, a disease not present in either Ireland or Great Britain, get an animal health certificate and wait 21 days before travel (at an estimated cost of over £100). And before entering or returning to Northern Ireland , those with a dog must visit a vet to get a treatment against Echinococcus multilocularis, a parasite not present in either Great Britain or Ireland, at a further cost of £30 to £40.
And for those of us who sail our own boats, taking our pet with us will make stopping off in Northern Ireland illegal. The scheme restricts entry to travellers’ ports of entry – only Belfast and Larne, which, unless I am mistaken, will only accept entry by ferry. It rules out Bangor or Carrickfergus marinas. The result is that Northern Ireland is now out of bounds to me, a citizen of the UK, as I sail from Wales to Scotland. So much for “no border in the Irish Sea”. Derek LumbVice-president, Cruising Association• I am astonished that in your summary (From tariffs to visas: here’s what’s in the Brexit deal , 24 December) you make no specific mention of how the agreement affects financial services (7% or so of our GDP). Contrast that with fisheries, which has its own section (at a reported 0.1% of GDP). I understand that discussions involving equivalence rights are to be continued, but clearly this a large bone still to be fought over, with powerful players. Was this an oversight or are you just trying to keep up our spirits in the post-Christmas torpor? Ian BartlettEast Molesey, Surrey
Get Your Dog Microchipped For a Permanent Identifier. A scan of your dogs microchip will give all of your personal information to help with a speedy reunion, just remember to update your information with the microchip company if you move. (microchips are also one of the ways a court can make a decision regarding ownership of a dog, if it ever came to that)
• I have been teaching French and Spanish for 37 years and see first-hand the benefits of the Erasmus scheme (UK students lose Erasmus membership in Brexit deal , 24 December). Hundreds of my students, and indeed my sons, have been able to study in Europe, and I have been amazed at how much they have matured as a result. Many students will not be able to travel without Erasmus. Last month, we had a 20-year-old German staying with us – a wonderful ambassador for his country. He may not have been able to come to England without support. This decision will hamper the futures of thousands of British and EU students.David HuggonHead of Spanish, The Sixth FormCollege, Colchester • Naming the (currently nonexistent) Erasmus replacement after Alan Turing is wonderfully appropriate. Turing was a talented mathematician who served his country with distinction. His academic career, and life, were destroyed by the callous actions of a bigoted government.Geoff JohnstoneMalvern, Worcestershire
• For a speaker whose pronouncements swing between ill-judged overstatement at best and utter cant at worst, the prime minister’s appropriation of “glad tidings of great joy”, the message of the angels about the nativity, was a new rhetorical low (Report , 25 December).Brenda Buchanan-SmithWeybridge, Surrey• So the Brexit deal is Boris Johnson’s Christmas gift to the nation. One of those rubbish children’s presents that stop working by the end of Boxing Day then.Dave HansonHull• Boris Johnson described the Brexit agreement as finding the philosopher’s stone, believed to have the power to turn base metal into gold. It never existed, but the idea was exploited by alchemists to cheat a gullible public. Many a true word…Florence RaynerSheffield
Breathe easy. In addition to sweating through their paw pads, dogs pant to cool themselves off. A panting dog can take 300-400 breaths (compared to his regular 30-40) with very little effort.