Europe News

Queen appears to weigh in on ‘Brexit’ debate

The Queen speaks up on EU membership

The Queen has emphasised the importance of European unity in a speech in Germany, as U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron tries to negotiate extra concessions in an effort to prevent the country leaving the European Union.

"We must work hard to maintain the benefits of the post-war world," Queen Elizabeth II told a state banquet in Berlin, as part of a state visit to Germany.

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"We know that division in Europe is dangerous and that we must guard against it in the west as well as in the east of our continent."

The comments have been interpreted as pro-European Union membership, just as the U.K.'s commitment to the single market appears to be wavering.

The Queen's statement, made at a dinner attended by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Cameron, is particularly interesting because she has been extremely discreet about her beliefs in the past. The U.K.'s monarchy usually stays out of politics.

The Queen, herself of German ancestry and married to a man who was born a Prince of Greece, served in the Second World War as a mechanic and driver. She said that she had "seen the worst" of her continent – a reference to the conflict.

Alexis Tsipras, Greek Prime Minister at a meeting in Brussels, June 24, 2015.
Eurogroup meeting ends with no deal on Greece

Cameron will on Thursday try to gain support for the special terms he wants for the U.K. from the European Union. Given the dominance of worries about Greece this week, and the migrant crisis in the region, he may find it difficult to get the discussion he wants.

The concessions he is asking for include limits on welfare payments for workers from non-U.K. European Union states and stronger guarantees that non-euro-zone members will not have rules forced on them by the single currency bloc. Cameron is also looking for greater impetus on trade deals outside the EU.

He has pledged to hold a referendum on EU membership by the end of 2017, but this could come earlier, potentially in 2016.

If the U.K. does leave the EU, the process could take up to a decade from now, as painstaking negotiations around its future relationship take place, according to new research from Global Counsel.

- By CNBC's Catherine Boyle