LONDON — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged the public on Monday "not to have too many arguments" over Christmas in a festive message in which he managed to avoid the word Brexit.
"Hi folks, Boris Johnson here, taking a moment to wish you all a merry little Christmas," he said in a video message filmed in front of a tree decorated with baubles and sparkling lights.
He added: "I hope you enjoy the next few days. Try not to have too many arguments with the in-laws, or anyone else."
Britain has been bitterly divided over its future ever since the 2016 referendum vote to leave the European Union, and political wrangling has delayed Brexit three times.
But Johnson won a resounding general election victory earlier this month promising to get it done, and Britain is set to leave on January 31.
Despite speaking of little else for months, Brexit did not get a mention in his message -- although he urged Britons to "reflect on the year, and celebrate the good that is to come".
On a more serious note, Johnson highlighted the "inestimable importance" of Christmas Day to billions of Christians around the world, as the celebration of the birth of Jesus.
He offered his solidarity to those facing persecution.
"For them, Christmas Day will be marked in private, in secret, perhaps even in a prison cell," he said.
"As prime minister, that's something I want to change. We stand with Christians everywhere, in solidarity, and will defend your right to practice your faith." — AFP