What The Royal Family Has Said About Brexit — And Hasn't — Speaks Volumes
All of Europe and the international community have been observing the United Kingdom this week in the aftermath of its national referendum to withdraw from the European Union. The vote set off furious speculation about what would happen next, not just for the UK's membership in the EU, but also for the state of the entire British economy. And naturally, it's sparked discussion over whether a withdrawal could still somehow be avoided, whether by parliament defying the referendum or through immense public pressure. For instance, what has the royal family said about Brexit? Couldn't a show of support from the nation's monarchs mean something?
Well, sad to say if you're anti-Brexit and looking for solace, there are a few problems with that idea. In the first place, it's worth considering that the cultural and political factors the pushed the referendum over the victory line seem unlikely to be swayed by some sort of public declaration by the British monarchy. Regardless of how you feel about Brexit or the virtue of the royal family, there's something about the image of a purely symbolic ruler chastising the masses for an exercise of democracy that doesn't go down so smoothly.
But more to the point, the royal family really hasn't said anything about Brexit so far for a very specific reason: They're bound by tradition and discretion to avoid stating their political views publicly. Here's how the official website describes the Queen's commitment to public neutrality:
As Head of State The Queen has to remain strictly neutral with respect to political matters, unable to vote or stand for election, however Her Majesty does have important ceremonial and formal roles in relation to the government of the UK.
This came up in the British media in the run-up to the referendum, too, as everyone was clamoring to know whether the royals had any leanings one way or another. British tabloid The Sun printed a story headlined "Queen Backs Brexit" which ultimately earned them a rebuke from the UK's official press arbiter for being misleading.
As People detailed last week, perhaps the closest any of the royals have come to a public statement on Brexit was when Prince William said the following in a speech earlier this year:
In an increasingly turbulent world, our ability to unite in common action with other nations is essential. It is the bedrock of our security and prosperity and is central to your work.
But even that is just one possible interpretation of his remarks. And indeed, People reported that William's aides subsequently denied he was talking about the Brexit situation. Basically, the long and the short of it is that you shouldn't hold out much hope for a deeper, more forceful stand from the royal family on the matter. It's not within the historical norms and traditions for them, and their role in British society is essentially all about traditions and norms.
That's not to say there's no possibility that Brexit could still be derailed, however, as the withdrawal can't actually happen unless Parliament invokes Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. But rest assured that any change in course at this point is going to come firmly from the political world, not from the monarchy.