Boris Johnson bans cabinet ministers from using the word 'Brexit'

Don’t mention the B word!* No.10’s secret crib sheet for Ministers who can’t be trusted to say the right thing on EU talks (*That’s Brexit, which is officially done and dusted and can only be spoken of as a historical event)

  • Ministers have been banned from using the word Brexit by Number 10 
  • A memo marked ‘Official – Sensitive’ claims Brexit is a historical event 
  • Ministers have also been banned from using the term ‘no deal’ or ‘EU partners’ 
  • Number 10 has banned ministers discussing a ‘deep and special partnership’  

Ministers have been handed a Brexit ‘lexicon’ to keep them on message with Boris Johnson’s new get-tough tactics with Brussels, The Mail on Sunday can reveal.

A confidential crib sheet, marked ‘Official – Sensitive’, tells them precisely what words and expressions to use – even telling them to stop saying ‘Brexit’ because that has now been achieved.

The memo, dated September 8, says the word can now be used only ‘as a historical event that took place on January 31, 2020’.

Boris Johnson has banned cabinet ministers from using the word Brexit in anything other than a historical context and has also told his government that they must not refer to EU partners

But it also seeks to contrast Mr Johnson’s new tougher approach with predecessor Theresa May’s –by ordering Ministers not to repeat her preferred ‘deep and special partnership’ description of our future relationship with the EU.

Instead, they are told to stress that in future ‘the EU will be one of many partners. Stick to the phrase “friendly co-operation between sovereign equals” ’.

The ‘stay on message memo’ comes as the Prime Minister faces threats of legal action from Brussels and a growing revolt from some senior Tories over controversial legislation which will over-rule parts of his own Brexit deal and flout international law.

In the Commons tomorrow, senior backbencher Sir Bob Neill will lead a bid to amend the Government’s new Internal Market Bill and deny Ministers delegated authority to break international law in respect of Northern Ireland.

Bromley MP Sir Bob told The Mail on Sunday that he was not persuaded by Mr Johnson’s claim yesterday that his shock new move was prompted by threats from Brussels to ‘carve up our country’ by insisting on unacceptable trade checks between Britain and Northern Ireland.

The document marked ‘Official-Sensitive’ also bans ministers from saying ‘in spite of Brexit’

There were claims yesterday that the Government was ready to drop the new Bill if the EU agreed to only limited checks.

But in a joint article for The Sunday Times, former Prime Ministers Sir John Major and Tony Blair called on Mr Johnson to drop the Bill now, claiming it risked peace in Northern Ireland by putting the Good Friday Agreement at risk.

They added it would damage trade talks with other nations, warning: ‘Once trust is undermined, distrust becomes prevalent.’

The two ex-Premiers said: ‘As the world looks on aghast at the UK – the word of which was once accepted as inviolable – this Government’s action is shaming itself and embarrassing our nation.’

But earlier, Tory peer David Trimble – who as leader of the Ulster Unionist Party received the Nobel Prize for his part in the peace talks – defended the Government’s actions. He told Times Radio: ‘There’s nothing unusual about the Government acting unilaterally and that is what this legislation is.’

Lord Trimble added: ‘The EU has had powers to impose really ghastly things on us ever since we joined… We gave the European Union power to legislate over our heads and I think… they’re taking out insurance so they’re able to stop it if ever [EU negotiator] Michel Barnier goes rogue.’ Tory MP and former Northern Ireland Minister Shailesh Vara also sprang to Mr Johnson’s defence, saying: ‘It is the first duty of a government to protect the integrity of the Union and this legislation helps to do that.’

The confidential ministerial crib sheet was attached to the Internal Market Bill introduced last week by Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis, who stunned MPs by admitting that part of it would breach international law.

The crib sheet makes no attempt to hide the implications, saying: ‘Do not imply that this is merely “clarifying” the Northern Ireland Protocol. This is a case where we are “disapplying” or “over-riding” the EU law concept of direct effect, required by Article 4 of the Withdrawal Agreement.

‘In this very limited and specific way we are in contravention of the Withdrawal Agreement.’

Sir Bob, whose amendment will impose a parliamentary lock on changes to the Withdrawal Agreement, hit out last night at the memo’s ‘control-freakish’ tone. He said: ‘It does seem to suggest an attempt to change the language which is not really compatible with what has been the Government’s position up to now. I am not sure good government is really about message control. It’s about taking the right decisions. It’s the difference between running campaigns and running a government.’

Mr Lewis and No 10 were approached for comment but Ministers traditionally decline to comment on leaked documents.

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