London: British Prime Minister Theresa May used a New Year video message on Sunday to pledge she would work towards getting the “right deal” for Britain as it prepares to leave the European Union after a “divisive” referendum.
Describing the Brexit referendum vote in June which brought her to power at Downing Street as a “momentous” yet “divisive” decision, May called for a “truly united Britain” in 2017.
She said: “I know that the referendum last June was divisive at times. I know, of course, that not everyone shared the same point of view, or voted in the same way. But I know too that, as we face the opportunities ahead of us, our shared interests and ambitions can bring us together.
“These ambitions unite us, so that we are no longer the 52% who voted ‘Leave’ and the 48% who voted ‘Remain’, but one great union of people and nations with a proud history and a bright future.
“So when I sit around the negotiating table in Europe this year, it will be with that in mind the knowledge that I am there to get the right deal not just for those who voted to Leave but for every single person in this country.”
May said she wanted to make 2017 the year when barriers that hold people back are pulled down to secure a better deal for ordinary, working people.
“After all, it is through unity that our people have achieved great things: through our precious union of nations England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland; through our union of people from sports teams to armed forces; businesses to charities; schools to hospitals; and, above all, through our union of communities and families,” she said.
She also invoked the memory of Labour MP Jo Cox, who was stabbed and shot to death by a right-wing fanatic in her constituency in central England in June ahead of the referendum.
May concluded: “As the fantastic MP Jo Cox, who was so tragically taken from us last year, put it: ‘We are far more united and have far more in common than that which divides us’.
“We have a golden opportunity to demonstrate that to bring this country together as never before, so that whoever you are, wherever you live, our politics, economy and society work for you, not just a privileged few.”
The British premier has set a March 2017 deadline to invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which will trigger the official two-year period of Brexit negotiations.
But before that, she awaits a Supreme Court ruling early in the New Year on whether she can go ahead with this process without seeking parliamentary approval.