Queen calls for unity as Brexit looms

Queen calls for unity as Brexit looms

London - The monarch said every generation faced "fresh challenges and opportunities."

By Reuters

Published: Fri 25 Jan 2019, 9:44 PM

Last updated: Fri 25 Jan 2019, 11:52 PM

Queen Elizabeth has sent a delicately coded message to Britain's factious political class over Brexit, urging lawmakers to seek common ground and grasp the big picture to resolve the crisis.
With the clock ticking down to March 29, the date set in law for Britain to leave the European Union, the United Kingdom is in the deepest political crisis in half a century as it grapples with how, or even whether, to exit the European project it joined in 1973.
While Elizabeth, 92, did not mention Brexit explicitly in an annual speech to her local Women's Institute in Norfolk, the monarch said every generation faced "fresh challenges and opportunities."
"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," the queen said.
Though steeped in the conventional language the queen has made her hallmark, the remarks in the context of Britain's crisis are a signal to politicians to sort out the turmoil that has pushed the world's fifth largest economy to the brink.
"She's been a gold standard monarch for very nearly 67 years now and this is a particularly gilt-edged moment, I think it's very important what she said and how she said it," historian Peter Hennessy said. Buckingham Palace declined to comment though the British media was clear about the significance of her remarks. The Times' headline read: "End Brexit feud, Queen tells warring politicians".
Prime Minister Theresa May is engaged in a last-ditch bid to win support for a tweaked divorce deal after parliament this month crushed the original plan in the biggest defeat in modern British history.
The Northern Irish party which props up May's minority government has decided to back her new deal if it includes a time limit to the Irish backstop, The Sun newspaper reported.
May has been meeting lawmakers to discuss a range of options on how to address concerns on the backstop, an insurance policy aimed at avoiding a hard border in Ireland should the two sides fail to agree any other solution.
"The point we are at at the moment is that work is ongoing, as to what we may eventually bring forward and potentially discuss with Brussels, we are not there yet," her spokesman said.
In a sign of the turmoil at the heart of government, finance minister Philip Hammond declined to say if he would quit if Britain left the EU without a deal that he predicted would lead to significant short-term disruption and hurt the economy. France and other European powers said they were preparing for the worst.
Ireland agreed with the European Commission to step up preparations for Britain possibly leaving the European Union without a deal to smooth its departure, a spokesman for the EU executive said on Friday. Confirming that Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar had spoken late on Thursday, Margaritis Schinas told reporters that they had "looked forward to continuing close cooperation ... including on intensifying no deal contingency action in the coming weeks". EU and Irish insistence on a "backstop" protocol to avoid a hard customs border with the British province of Northern Ireland after Brexit is among reasons why British lawmakers have refused to ratify a treaty agreed by May and intended to ease disruption when Britain leaves on March 29.

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