Plans for King Charles to meet president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, as she visits Windsor to formally announce a Brexit deal this afternoon has sparked controversy with Arlene Foster, the former leader of the Democratic Unionist Party, describing the decision as “crass”.
The meeting, which will have been accepted by Buckingham Palace on advice from No 10, could be construed as the King lending support for the Brexit deal, which is a political issue, critics argue.
Ms Foster said the meeting will “go down very badly in [Northern Ireland]”.
“I cannot quite believe that No 10 would ask [King Charles] to become involved in the finalising of a deal as controversial as this one,” she wrote on Twitter.
“We must remember this is not the King’s decision but the Government who it appears are tone deaf.”
Sammy Wilson, the DUP’s chief whip, said the event could risk “dragging the King into a hugely controversial political issue”.
Former Commons Leader and Brexit Secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg also questioned the move, telling Sky News it was “constitutionally unwise to involve the King in a matter of immediate political controversy”.
He said the audience would “antagonises the people the Prime Minister needs to conciliate” as Rishi Sunak prepares to present his new post-Brexit deal to MPs.
Labour MP Chris Bryant also criticised the plan, saying it was a “terrible mistake from the government” and that “we should never bring the monarchy into political disputes”.
Buckingham Palace has appeared to distance itself from the criticism on Monday, claiming the meeting was organised on “the government’s advice”.
Downing Street, however, said Mr Sunak believed that holding the meeting was “fundamentally” down to the King and Palace officials.
“He firmly believes it’s for the King to make those decisions,” the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said.
They pointed out that King Charles often met visiting foreign leaders, and had recently met with Poland’s President Andrzej Duda or Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky.
The spokesperson also denied that the audience could be perceived as the monarch giving an endorsement to Mr Sunak’s new Brexit deal, claiming that the Government would “never seen to frame any action as an endorsement”.
King Charles and Ms von der Leyen are expected to meet for tea in Windsor on Monday afternoon once she has concluded talks with Mr Sunak on the contentious Northern Ireland protocol agreement.