Rishi Sunak is accused of embroiling King Charles in toxic Brexit politics
Rishi Sunak has been accused of embroiling the king in toxic Brexit politics by sending him on a controversial tour of EU nations.
Charles’ visit to Berlin and Paris next month – his first trip abroad as monarch – is seen as a charm offensive as the Prime Minister seeks to renegotiate the Northern Ireland Protocol with Brussels.
But some senior Tories last night accused their leader of exploiting the royal family for his short-term political ends amid growing partisan infighting over the post-Brexit talks.
Some reports suggest that the proposed changes to the protocol could even be called the Windsor Accords, leading to further claims that No. 10 is using the King’s name to advance its own ends.
The visit to the two European leaders – despite expectations that Charles would follow tradition by ensuring his first royal visit was to a Commonwealth nation – comes after Buckingham Palace responded to a diplomatic request from the Government to strengthen EU relations.
Britain’s Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is said to be close to an agreement on the Northern Ireland Protocol with Ursula von der Leyen
But leading Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg warned Mr Sunak against using the monarch for his “own temporary political imperatives”.
One Brexit strategist said: “Involving His Majesty in this situation is a major misstep by No 10. Those who remained always went mad whenever there was any indication that the royal family might be involved in Brexit. Now it seems fitting for them to send him on an EU scam.’
The new row follows the last minute cancellation of a planned meeting between Charles and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen yesterday, just as contentious talks between London and Brussels are nearing their conclusion.
Such an unusual encounter – and at such a sensitive time – may have helped rally trade unionists, whose support is vital if new trade deals are to be agreed. But it could have given the impression that the king was blessing a controversial political issue.
The meeting – the cancellation of which has been attributed to “operational reasons” – would likely have raised questions about the verdict of both No10 and the Palace.
The proposed deal is understood to include reducing border controls between mainland Britain and Northern Ireland and limiting the role of the European Court of Justice in settling disputes.
No 10 sources told The Mail on Sunday that the EU had “stepped out of its comfort zone” by agreeing to make changes to the protocol after initially claiming the treaty could not be renegotiated.
But Tory Brexiteers are skeptical of the talks, believing it is a mistake for the Prime Minister to scrap Boris Johnson’s Northern Ireland Protocol Bill, which would allow Britain to unilaterally amend parts of the deal in favor of direct negotiations with the EU.
Brexiteers say No10 should have included Mr Johnson in discussions about the negotiations. One said: “The government has failed to get involved and roll the pitch [prepare the ground] with Brexiteers. They should have tasked Boris and other senior Brexiteers with this weeks ago. No one will be surprised when their abuse comes back to biting them.’
Last week, Mr Johnson warned Mr Sunak it would be a “huge mistake” to drop the Northern Ireland Protocol Act.
In the meantime. Royal insiders say the King and Queen consort are making the European state visit – which is also expected to take place in Bordeaux – for the sake of Northern Ireland.
One said: “While the monarch is not overtly political, the king’s role is nonetheless to be the best diplomat the government can employ.”
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen reacts at the start of the weekly European Commission College meeting in Brussels, Belgium
But Mr Rees-Mogg warned against using the king as a political tool – and said Charles should have followed his mother’s example by visiting “his own realms” in the Commonwealth first.
The former cabinet minister said: “Obviously the government has a long-established and important role in advising the monarch on his key public engagements.
“However, it would be wrong for Downing Street to have put pressure on the King to make his first foreign visit on the basis of its own temporary political exigencies. The king is equally sovereign over his other kingdoms and has responsibilities to his other prime ministers.
“The late Queen’s first foreign visit was to a realm and this is the right precedent to follow.
“Given the growing Republican sentiment [across the Commonwealth] His Majesty should first go to his own kingdoms like Australia, New Zealand or Canada.’
But a royal source said: “Some might have expected the King to visit the Commonwealth first, but of course he takes advice from the Government on which trips take place and when. This trip to Britain’s influential European neighbors is an opportunity for the king to do what the monarchy is so good at – employing soft diplomacy on behalf of the British government.
“There are reasons why now is a good time to reach out to our closest allies as post-Brexit negotiations take place over Northern Ireland and the Russian invasion of Ukraine continues. His desire is to do his duty and serve the country by bringing people together.’
Another royal insider: “This trip is about Northern Ireland and protecting the relationship [with the rest of the UK] and the people there. The King has been visiting Northern Ireland every year for around 20 years and it is also likely one of his first visits as King.
“He is well informed on Irish politics and in a diplomatic capacity will want to do whatever is necessary to protect the peace process, especially as the [Royal] Family was so saddened by Mountbatten’s death. Louis Mountbatten – the King’s beloved great-uncle – was assassinated by an IRA bomb in 1979.
Resolving post-Brexit trade rules between Northern Ireland and both the Irish Republic and the rest of the UK is seen as crucial to solving the political deadlock in the region and ensuring lasting peace.
A No10 source close to the negotiations said: “Thanks to the EU – they are well out of their comfort zone and what was considered impossible is about to be achieved – a treaty change in the best interests of Northern Ireland.”
Senior Tories have warned Mr Sunak against using the monarch for his “own temporary political imperatives”.
Brussels is said to be ready to agree to UK proposals to introduce “red” and “green” lanes in Northern Ireland ports. Goods destined for the province would go through the fast-moving ‘green lane’, with stricter ‘red lane’ scrutiny for goods headed to the Irish Republic and the EU single market on issues such as VAT and government subsidies for the province, which previously fell to Brussels.
However, Brexit advocates questioned whether the proposals would really allow manufacturers in Northern Ireland to deviate from EU rules and escape the orbit of Brussels. They also called for clarification on the extent to which London would be able to exercise real control over issues such as VAT.
A source close to Mr Johnson said: “Nobody can judge the deal until they see it. ‘
The King’s visits to Berlin and Paris are scheduled for late March as he also prepares for the coronation on May 6. He is expected to make brief visits to key Commonwealth countries later this year.
Meanwhile, other members of the royal family are being dispatched to quell rising republican sentiment – including a big visit for the Prince and Princess of Wales to be announced.
Earlier this month, the Earl and Countess of Wessex traveled to the Cayman Islands and visited New Zealand on behalf of the King and Princess Anne.
This won’t be the first time the king has helped forge closer ties with our European neighbors.
The most significant recent visit came in November 2020 when the then Prince of Wales flew to Germany with Camilla on his 71st birthday. He laid a wreath in Berlin to commemorate the victims of war and tyranny and gave a heartfelt post-Brexit speech about the connection between the British and German people.
He said: “Relations between our countries are developing again. Its form is a matter negotiated between our governments, and its essence is defined by the enduring bonds between our peoples. I therefore believe with all my heart that the fundamental bond between us will remain strong. We will always be friends, partners and allies. As our countries begin this new chapter in our long history, let us reaffirm our bond for years to come.’
In 2017, Prince William was sent to Berlin on a similar diplomatic mission, where he said the UK and Germany would remain “the closest of friends” despite Brexit.
Source: | This article originally belongs to Dailymail.co.uk
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