With the clock ticking down to March 29, the date set in law for Brexit, the UK is in its deepest political crisis in half a century as it grapples with how, or even whether, to exit the European alliance it joined in 1973.
While Elizabeth, 92, did not mention Brexit explicitly in a speech to her local Women’s Institute in Norfolk on Thursday, 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.
As the head of state, the queen remains neutral on politics in public and is unable to vote, but her words are carefully watched as a moral bellwether.
The Times of London described the comments on Thursday as a “rebuke to warring politicians”, while the BBC said there was no doubt the monarch was sending a message.
Legislators 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 the EU leaders even though it has been overwhelmingly rejected by Parliament.
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.
Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd, a prominent supporter of the prime minister, said on Thursday she was “committed to making sure we avoid no-deal”, which would have devastating effects on the British economy.
A string of union bosses have been holding talks with May and are also urging her to take no-deal off the table.
May on Friday echoed the queen’s call for a respectful debate in Britain, her spokesman said while declining to comment directly on remarks from the monarch seen as a message to politicians on Brexit.
“With great respect, I wouldn’t wish to comment directly on the views of her majesty,” May’s spokesman said.
“The prime minister’s own view is that we should always show great respect for the point of view of others.”