LONDON — Queen Elizabeth II has urged people to seek “common ground,” in remarks widely interpreted as a veiled criticism of the toxic debate surrounding Britain’s departure from the European Union.
While the monarch didn’t mention Brexit and is barred from commenting on political issues, the Times of London described the comments as a “rebuke to warring politicians.” Lawmakers on all sides of the increasingly tense Brexit debate have traded barbs in recent weeks as Prime Minister Theresa May tries to push ahead with the divorce deal she negotiated with EU leaders even though it has been overwhelmingly rejected by Parliament.
“Every generation faces fresh challenges and opportunities,” the monarch said Thursday in a speech marking the 100th anniversary of the Women’s Institute in Sandringham, home to one of the royal family’s country estates.
“As we look for new answers in the modern age, I for one prefer the tried and tested recipes, like speaking well of each other and respecting different points of view; coming together to seek out the common ground; and never losing sight of the bigger picture.”
Even though she remains publicly neutral on political issues, the queen’s words are carefully watched as a moral bellwether. Her comments were seen as a call for a return to civility in political discourse as Britain grapples with the deeply divisive Brexit question.
While her remarks to the Women’s Institute were similar to those in the queen’s annual Christmas address, they come as May faces increasing pressure to rule out the possibility of leaving the EU without an agreement on future relations.
A string of union bosses have been holding talks with May and are also urging her to take the “no-deal” option off the table.
Many economists and business leaders are warning that leaving without a deal risks a damaging blow to Britain’s economy that might hamper growth for years to come, a point made Friday by Treasury chief Philip Hammond at the World Economic Forum in Davos.
The “no-deal” scenario looms if no agreement is approved by Parliament before the March 29 exit date.
Brexit backer Andrea Leadsom, leader of the House of Commons, said it would likely be possible for Britain to gain EU approval to delay its departure from the bloc “for a couple of weeks” if that was needed to get Brexit legislation passed by Parliament, which is deeply divided on the issue.
She said she still believes it is possible to get a deal passed in time despite the many obstacles.
Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd, a prominent supporter of the prime minister, said Thursday she was “committed to making sure we avoid no-deal,” which would have devastating effects on the British economy.