Theresa May recalled advice from the late Sir Nicholas Winton, hailed as “Britain’s Schindler” after saving hundreds of children from Nazi tyranny, as she set out the timetable for her departure.
The Prime Minister said the humanitarian had been a constituent of hers in Maidenhead for many years, and once told her that compromise is “not a dirty word”.
“He was right,” said Mrs May, speaking outside Number 10.
Sir Nicholas organised the rescue of 669 Jewish children from Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia on the eve of the Second World War before helping them to begin new lives in Britain.
The London-born stockbroker founded the Kindertransport following a visit to Prague at the end of 1938, during which he felt compelled to help save children there from almost certain death.
His bravery was only made known to the public half a century later, when his family happened upon an old briefcase in the attic containing lists of children and letters from their parents.
Sir Nicholas died in 2015, aged 106, and Mrs May, then the home secretary, was among political dignitaries who celebrated his life at a memorial service the year after.
Speaking outside Downing Street, the PM said: “It will be for my successor to seek a way forward that honours the result of the referendum.
“To succeed, he or she will have to find consensus in Parliament where I have not.
“Such a consensus can only be reached if those on all sides of the debate are willing to compromise.
“For many years the great humanitarian Sir Nicholas Winton, who saved the lives of hundreds of children by arranging their evacuation from Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia through the Kindertransport, was my constituent in Maidenhead.
“At another time of political controversy, a few years before his death, he took me to one side at a local event and gave me a piece of advice.
“He said: ‘Never forget that compromise is not a dirty word. Life depends on compromise’. He was right.
“As we strive to find the compromises we need in our politics, whether to deliver Brexit or to restore devolved government in Northern Ireland, we must remember what brought us here.”
Mrs May has previously described Sir Nicholas as a “hero of the 20th century”.