Arlene Foster says King Charles meeting with EU chief is 'crass' and 'tone-deaf'

Arlene Foster Says King Charles Meeting With Eu Chief Is 'Crass' And 'Tone-Deaf'
Arlene Foster said the meeting with Charles in Windsor Castle was 'crass and will go down very badly'. Photo: PA
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By Sam Blewett and Alan Anthony Jones, PA

EU chief Ursula von der Leyen's meeting with Britain's King Charles has angered unionists as British prime minister Rishi Sunak seeks their support over the new post-Brexit deal on Northern Ireland.

Arlene Foster, the former DUP leader and first minister of Northern Ireland, said the meeting in Windsor Castle was “crass and will go down very badly”.



Buckingham Palace said Charles was acting on “the [British] government’s advice”. Downing Street said it was “fundamentally” a decision for Charles.

Charles and the European Commission president will sit down for tea late on Monday after she is expected to sign off on a long-awaited Northern Ireland Protocol agreement with Rishi Sunak.

Leading Conservative Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg said it was wrong to involve Charles in the “immediate political controversy” on the day the prime minister will sign a new agreement with her.


Mr Rees-Mogg, a former Cabinet minister, said: “It is surprising that the king will meet Ursula von der Leyen today as it antagonises the people the prime minister needs to conciliate.

“It is also constitutionally unwise to involve the king in a matter of immediate political controversy.”

Ms Foster added: “I cannot quite believe that No 10 would ask HM the King to become involved in the finalising of a deal as controversial as this one. 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.”


The announcement of Monday’s meeting came despite warnings that it could draw the king, who as British head of state must remain politically neutral, into the process of the UK and EU agreeing a deal or be seen as tacitly endorsing it.



Downing Street has defended the move to advise the king to meet Ms von der Leyen, saying Mr Sunak “fundamentally” believes the final decision was for Charles.

“He firmly believes it’s for the king to make those decisions,” the British prime minister’s official spokesman said.

He compared the von der Leyen meeting to Charles talking to Poland’s Andrzej Duda or Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

“It’s not uncommon for his majesty to accept invitations to meet certain leaders, he has met president Duda and president Zelenskiy recently. He is meeting with the president of the EU today,” the spokesman said.

Ursula von der Leyen visits Dublin
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen will have tea with the King (Brian Lawless/PA)

Asked why the final protocol talks were taking place in Windsor, he said: “There are a number of occasions when these sorts of talks have been held in significant locations, this is no different.”

Conservatives were among those voicing their criticism of the meeting before it was even confirmed, following suggestions the deal would be called the “Windsor Agreement”.

And Sammy Wilson, the DUP’s chief whip said the expected meeting would risk “dragging the king into a hugely controversial political issue”.

Topics up for discussion between Charles and the EU chief include climate change and the Russian invasion of Ukraine, though it was unknown if they will discuss Northern Ireland.

A Buckingham Palace spokesman said: “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.”

Charles and Ms von der Leyen will meet at Windsor Castle once her commitments elsewhere have been fulfilled.

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