THE Queen has spoken publicly for the first time on an issue that is tearing the United Kingdom apart.
The 92-year-old monarch waded into the Brexit nightmare at a state banquet in honour of King Willem-Alexander and his wife Queen Maxima, telling the royal visitors “as we look toward a new partnership with Europe” and spoke of the values shared by the UK and Holland which she called “our greatest assets”.
It was a historic occasion for the British royals as the Dutch monarch has not made a state visit to the UK in almost four decades.
The Queen is impartial on politics and very rarely makes any statement about anything controversial. The UK is trying to deal an agreement with the European Union, of which the Netherlands is a leading member, but has run into severe difficulty that makes it likely they will crash out of the bloc next March without a deal in place.
In her speech the Queen said: “I recall the state visit of your grandmother Queen Juliana and Prince Bernhard in 1972, when I spoke of how our nations’ close understanding and relationship would become increasingly important as a new configuration of Europe was emerging.
“As we look toward a new partnership with Europe, it is our shared values and commitment to each other that are our greatest asset, and demonstrate that even through change, our enduring alliance remains strong, and as innovators, traders and internationalists we look with confidence to the future.”
She went on to praise the economic and cultural links between the countries.
Earlier in the day King Willem-Alexander had urged Britain to lift the “shadow of uncertainty” hanging over Dutch nationals living in the UK after Brexit, which was something he said “saddens us”.
At the banquet he repeated those comments.
“At present, a lot of attention is focused on the ‘technical’ side of Brexit. That’s understandable and necessary.
“But in the midst of all that complexity we should not lose sight of the greater narrative that continues to bind us. The greater narrative of freedom, openness and co-operation. Of growth and a prosperity whose fruits are enjoyed by all.”
Their visit is one of a number of “Brexit diplomacy” trips members of the British royal family have either travelled to EU countries or hosted European royalty in a bid to strengthen relationships.
Embattled UK Prime Minister Theresa May was at the banquet – she is facing increasing calls from within her own party to step down as the Brexit talks breakdown.
The prime minister is to face a powerful committee of bank benchers tonight which many believe could make or break her leadership.
The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall, and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were at the banquet, along with senior members of the Cabinet and leading figures from British and Dutch life.
Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge, wore a tiara that was once one of Princess Diana’s most treasured items.
The stunning tiara was one of Princess Diana’s most iconic jewellery pieces and was designed in 1914 for Queen Mary.
However it wasn’t seen after Diana’s death until 2015, when the Duchess first wore it.
Catherine’s headpiece was paired with the Collingwood pearl drop earrings which had previously been owned by Princess Diana, and Queen Alexandra’s wedding necklace. She teamed her diamonds with a kingfisher blue Alexander McQueen floor-length gown.
Prince William wore a white bow tie with a black suit with two military medals to attend the banquet.
The hostess, Queen Elizabeth II, wore the Girls of Great Britain and Ireland tiara which dates back to the early 1890s, which she paired with a brooch made from the Cullinan III and IV diamonds, cut from the giant Cullinan stone.
She wore a floor-length white gown, as did Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall. Camilla also wore her favourite Greville tiara.