Sunak faces criticism over plans for von der Leyen to 'meet the king'

Sunak Faces Criticism Over Plans For Von Der Leyen To 'Meet The King'
Unionist politicians said a meeting with European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen would have been a 'cynical use' of the king's position. Photo: PA Images
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Patrick Daly, PA Political Correspondent

British prime minister Rishi Sunak's political judgment has been criticised after a meeting between Britain's King Charles III and the leader of the European Union was cancelled.

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen had been expected to travel to the UK on Saturday amid speculation a deal to fix issues with the Northern Ireland Protocol is near.


The German politician was also due to meet the king at Windsor Castle, Sky News said.

There were talks about calling a potential protocol pact the “Windsor Agreement” after a meeting with Charles, the broadcaster said.



British government sources confirmed Ms von der Leyen’s trip was called off but it is likely Downing Street and Buckingham Palace worked together on the reported arrangements.

Mr Sunak’s critics said the scheduled meeting brought into question his handling of the protocol negotiations.

Jacob Rees-Mogg, a former business secretary and senior member of the Tory Eurosceptic European Research Group (ERG), told the PA news agency: “If there were a plan to bring the king in before there is domestic political agreement, it would border on constitutional impropriety.”


Mr Sunak is keen to secure the backing of not only his Tory MPs but also the DUP for any protocol reform as he looks to restore powersharing in Belfast.

The DUP is refusing to take part in Stormont’s devolved government in protest at the impact the Brexit treaty is having on trade between Northern Ireland and Britain.

Social Care reform
DUP MP Sammy Wilson said Rishi Sunak was ‘naive’ to consider setting up a meeting between the king and Ursula von der Leyen (UK parliament/Jessica Taylor/PA)


Former DUP deputy leader Lord Dodds said meeting Ms von der Leyen would have politicised the monarch, and argued the reports “reinforce the questions about No 10’s political judgment over the protocol”.

DUP MP Sammy Wilson said any Windsor rendezvous with the EU leader would have been “a cynical use” of the king’s position and seen in Unionist circles as the sovereign endorsing the deal.

He branded Mr Sunak “naive” and accused him of “dragging the king into a hugely controversial political issue”.

“The only conclusion we can come to is he knows that in these negotiations he hasn’t achieved the objectives he set out for himself and his own party,” Mr Wilson said on Sky News of Mr Sunak.


“Nor has he achieved the promises that he had made to ourselves and was now trying to get the king to pull the thing over the line for him.”

Cop27 summit
European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen’s trip to Britain was cancelled, British government sources confirmed (Steve Reigate/Daily Express/PA)

Baroness Hoey, a Northern Irish Brexit supporter and former Labour MP, said any such meeting would have been “outrageous”.

British government sources said that, while Ms von der Leyen’s trip was no longer going ahead, it would not have been improper for the king, as a head of state, to meet a visiting European leader.

“It would be wrong to suggest the king would be involved in anything remotely political,” a British government source told PA.

Buckingham Palace would not comment.

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