King Charles Met E.U. Leader Ahead of New Brexit Deal, Sparking Controversy
King Charles III met with Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, at Windsor Castle on Monday afternoon, where the pair shared some tea and posed for a photo.
But the seemingly unremarkable afternoon cuppa has proved controversial to some in Britain. They saw the king’s decision to meet with a major E.U. leader as too political and directly in conflict with his apolitical role, as Ms. von der Leyen was in the country to finalize a new Brexit deal.
A statement from Buckingham Palace on the meeting hinted at the idea that the king may have been asked by the government to meet with Ms. von der Leyen.
“The king is pleased to meet any world leader if they are visiting Britain and it is the government’s advice that he should do so,” a palace spokesperson said in a statement. But a spokesperson for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said that he “firmly believes it’s for the king to make those decisions.”
The European Commission has been clear that the meeting between Ms. von der Leyen and the king was not part of the Northern Ireland talks process, a spokesperson said during an afternoon news conference. The spokesperson added that the king and Ms. von der Leyen would likely discuss a variety of international issues.
Regardless of the exact circumstances, the meeting has drawn speculation from many in the British public, and the news media, that King Charles had overstepped his role as head of state and waded into the world of politics.
The author Alexander Larman, writing in Britain’s Spectator magazine, called the decision to take part in the meeting “a mistake,” and said it was “an unprecedented, febrile idea that the king might have chosen a political side.”
“For the king, this is dangerous territory,” he wrote, adding, “If the agreement is panned, and King Charles is seen to have endorsed it, even implicitly, by meeting von der Leyen, the monarch risks being dragged into a row of the government’s making.”
Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party also showed signs it was against the meeting, with the party’s former leader, Arlene Foster, writing on Twitter that she “cannot quite believe” that Downing Street “would ask HM the King to become involved in the finalising of a deal as controversial as this one.”
She added: “It’s crass and will go down very badly in NI. We must remember this is not the King’s decision but the Government who it appears are tone deaf.”