Ursula von der Leyen meeting King Charles will ‘go down very badly’ in Northern Ireland, says former DUP leader

King Charles (PA Media)
King Charles (PA Media)

A planned meeting between King Charles and EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Monday has been criticised as “crass and tone deaf” by DUP’s former leader Arlene Foster.

Ms von der Leyen is due to meet the King in Windsor during her visit to Britain to finalise talks with the British government on a new deal on post-Brexit trade rules for Northern Ireland.

News of meeting angered former DUP leader Arlene Foster, who tweeted: “I cannot quite believe that No10 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.”

Former DUP leader Arlene Foster (Liam McBurney/PA) (PA Wire)
Former DUP leader Arlene Foster (Liam McBurney/PA) (PA Wire)

Downing Street has defended the decision to advise the King to meet the EU chief.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said Rishi Sunak believes “fundamentally” the decision was for Buckingham Palace.

“He firmly believes it’s for the King to make those decisions,” the official said.

“It’s not uncommon for His Majesty to accept invitations to meet certain leaders, he has met President Duda and President Zelensky recently. He is meeting with the president of the EU today.”

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

Buckingham Palace confirmed that a meeting between her and King Charles will go ahead - despite accusations from some that it would be improper and would draw the King into politics.

A palace spokesperson 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.”

The head of state and president will sit down to tea late on Monday afternoon during their meeting where a range of topics are expected to be discussed including climate change and the situation in Ukraine.

‘I’m looking forward to turning a page and opening a new chapter with our partner and friend’ Ursula von der Leyen arrives in London (Ursula von der Leyen)
‘I’m looking forward to turning a page and opening a new chapter with our partner and friend’ Ursula von der Leyen arrives in London (Ursula von der Leyen)

Sammy Wilson, the chief whip of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) warned the expected meeting risked “dragging the King into a hugely controversial political issue”.

Rishi Sunak is hoping to secure the support of the DUP for his deal on post-Brexit trading arrangements in Northern Ireland, so the party agrees to restore power sharing at Stormont.

Leading Tory Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg said it would be a mistake for Ms von der Leyen to meet the King during her visit to the UK.

The former Cabinet minister told GB News: “I think the sovereign should only be involved when things have been completed and accepted.

“The King gives assent to Acts of Parliament when Parliament has agreed, he doesn't express his view on Acts of Parliament when they are going through the process.

“I think the same applies, that His Majesty should not be involved until there is full support for this agreement."

The Prime Minister will speak to the EU chief at lunchtime before briefing his top ministers in a virtual meeting of the Cabinet.

Mr Sunak and Ms von der Leyen will then set out the deal to voters in a joint press conference before the Prime Minister makes a statement to MPs in the Commons.

The Northern Ireland protocol, signed by Mr Johnson as PM in 2020, was designed to prevent a hard border with Ireland after Brexit.

Northern Ireland continues to follow EU rules on goods to prevent checks being needed when crossing into the Republic.

But the trade barriers created between Northern Ireland and Great Britain has angered Unionists, including the DUP.