Theresa May echoes Jo Cox's call for unity in New Year's message

Prime Minister Theresa May
Prime Minister Theresa May
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The Prime Minister has used her first New Year's message to issue fresh calls for unity in response to the deep economic and social divisions "laid bare" by the referendum.

Addressing the nation at the close of a "momentous" year in politics, Theresa May speaks of the emerging rift between "those who are prospering, and those who are not".

However, she urges the country to look ahead to 2017 and the opportunities posed by Brexit and a strengthened union between the UK's devolved nations.

And echoing the words of the murdered Batley and Spen MP Jo Cox, she calls on the British people to demonstrate "as never before" that "[we] have far more in common than that which divides us".

"The New Year is a time to reflect on what has passed and to look ahead to the opportunities to come," Mrs May says.

"And this year, as I consider all that 2017 has in store, I believe those opportunities are greater than ever. For we have made a momentous decision and set ourselves on a new direction.

"Of course, the referendum laid bare some further divisions in our country – between those who are prospering, and those who are not; those who can easily buy their own home, send their children to a great school, find a secure job, and those who cannot; in short, those for whom our country works well, and those for whom it does not.

“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.

"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.

"So as we look ahead to a year of opportunity and unity, let me wish you and your family a peaceful, prosperous and happy New Year."

Mrs May also uses her speech to pick up on concerns expressed by a number of MPs, who suggest references to the "52 per cent" and the "48 per cent" are only fueling division between Leave and Remain supporters.

She instead speaks of "one great union of people and nations, with a proud history and a bright future".

She also repeats her commitment to secure the "right" Brexit deal "not just for those who voted to Leave – but for every single person in this country".

And she underlines her support for the devolved administrations as she heralds the "great things" that have been achieved "through our precious union of nations".