Theresa May new year message: EU referendum 'laid bare divisions'

Media caption,
Theresa May calls for the country to unite after a "divisive 2016"

This year's EU referendum "laid bare some further divisions in our country", Theresa May has said.

In her first new year message as prime minister, Mrs May called for unity following June's "divisive" vote, ahead of negotiations on the UK's exit from the EU.

She said: "If 2016 was the year you voted for that change, this is the year we start to make it happen."

Mrs May also quoted MP Jo Cox, who was killed a week before the EU referendum.

The prime minister said in December she would set out her proposals for a "truly global Britain" in a speech on Brexit in the new year.

She has pledged to trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, getting leaving talks with the EU under way, by the end of March.

These can take up to two years, unless an agreement is reached to prolong the process.

'Golden opportunity'

In her new year message, Mrs May 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...

"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.

"Of course, the referendum laid bare some further divisions in our country...

"This is the year we need to pull down these barriers that hold people back, securing a better deal at home for ordinary, working people."

Mrs May said the divisions revealed by the Brexit campaign needed to be addressed in 2017.

"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'," she said.