Theresa May has admitted she regrets some the language she has used after she warned “words have consequences”.
“Has every phrase I used always been as perfect as it should be? No,” she said on Wednesday afternoon.
May had been asked if it was acceptable for her to have used the phrase “citizens of nowhere”.
And questioned over whether she regretted saying EU workers should not be able to “jump the queue”, May added: “I should not have used that particular phrase.”
“I don’t claim I get every single phrase I use right,” she said.
In her final set-piece speech as prime minister, May said she was worried about the “coarsening” of language in political debate.
May is set to step down as PM next week and will be replaced by Boris Johnson or Jeremy Hunt.
May said politicians should be more willing to make “compromises” and reject . “absolutism”.
“Some are losing the ability to disagree without demeaning the views of others,” she said.
“This descent of our debate into rancour and tribal bitterness, and in some cases even vile abuse at a criminal level, is corrosive to the democratic values which we should all be seeking to uphold.”
The PM added: “Words have consequences. And ill words that go unchallenged are the first step on a continuum to ill deeds.
“Towards a much darker place where hatred and prejudice drive not only what people say but also what they do.”
The PM did not mention Donald Trump by name, but her criticism of populism for fuelling the “politics of division” by promising “easy answers” will be seen as a veiled swipe at the US president.
Quoting Dwight Eisenhower, May added: “People talk about the middle of the road as though it were unacceptable.
“Things are not all black and white. There have to be compromises. The middle of the road is all of the usable surface. The extremes, right and left, are in the gutters.”
With the prospect of a no-deal Brexit on the horizon, May defended her agreement that was repeatedly rejected by MPs.
She said the “best route” for the UK was for the country to leave the eEU with a deal.