LONDON: Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson reacts as he delivers a speech at the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich, south east London yesterday. – AFP

LONDON: Prime Minister Boris Johnson yesterday insisted that “Brexit” was not banned, despite not mentioning the word in a speech setting out Britain’s negotiating position with Brussels for trade talks. Britain on Friday became the first country to leave the EU after 47 years of membership, capping more than three years of division and debate following a landmark 2016 referendum. But the word was noticeably absent from his speech at the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich, south London, a UNESCO World Heritage Site of the country’s seafaring past and former glories.

“Brexit” was named word of the year by dictionary publisher Collins in 2016, as usage surged by more than 3,400 percent before, during and after the referendum nearly four years ago. Collins described it as “arguably politics’ most important contribution to the English language… since the Watergate scandal gave commentators and comedians the suffix ‘-gate’.”

Johnson also campaigned on the slogan “Get Brexit Done” at the last election in December, where he won a sizeable majority enabling him to push his divorce deal with Brussels through parliament. But asked why he had not used it during his speech — apart from a fleeting mention of “the B-word”, he told reporters: “It’s not banned… “It’s like the glorious revolution that preceded and events chronicled behind us. It’s gone… It’s receding behind us in history and that’s the approach we should take to it.” – AFP