London: British Prime Minister Theresa May on Saturday called for post-Brexit unity in her annual Christmas message and said Britain must seize its historic opportunity and move forward into the future.
In the year that saw the UK vote by 52 per cent to 48 per cent to leave the European Union (EU) in a referendum in June, May said it marked a "historic opportunity" to forge "a bold new role" for the UK.
"As we leave the European Union we must seize an historic opportunity to forge a bold new role for ourselves in the world and to unite our country as we move forward into the future," she said in her message released by Downing Street.
"And, with our international partners, we must work together to promote trade, increase prosperity and face the challenges to peace and security around the world," she said.
The Prime Minister said there had been much to celebrate in 2016 ? with the Queen's 90th birthday and British successes in the Olympics and Paralympics.
"These are precious moments when people from many backgrounds, with different beliefs, come together to celebrate with families and communities.
We also think of Christians in other parts of the world who face persecution this Christmas and re-affirm our determination to stand up for the freedom of people of all religions to practise their beliefs in peace and safety," she said.
In a separate message to the armed forces, including the 5,000 deployed on operations over the holiday period, she said: "Just as your commitment to our country is unfaltering, so in return we owe you the same deep commitment and unflinching support."
Opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn used his Christmas message to point to homeless charity Shelter's figures suggesting 120,000 children would spend Christmas without a home to call their own while rough sleeping had increased by 30 per cent in the last year.
He praised charity workers, saying: "It's the goodwill and generosity of ordinary people, public service and charity workers who give tirelessly to help the most vulnerable and the lonely."
"They remind us of Christmas values: love for your neighbour, working together and hope, hope that things can be different," he said.