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The meeting between King Charles and von der Leyen was skipped until the last moment: the danger of politicizing the monarchy

The meeting between King Charles III and the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, was canceled at the last minute: a meeting, which had been scheduled for this afternoon, coincided with the final stage of the negotiations on the Northern Ireland Protocol. The meeting was canceled, Sky News and The Times wrote, and indeed the government was accused of wanting to “politicize” the monarchy. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has been in talks for weeks with the European Union over a post-Brexit deal for Northern Ireland, an agreement that effectively created a border in the Irish Sea, leaving companies struggling trying to send goods from Great Britain. But in recent days, after weeks of tense negotiations, and despite growing anger among Conservative Tories and Northern Irish unionists, the agreement appears to have reached the finish line. But the danger is that many are unhappy.

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That is why the king could have played an important role, meeting von der Leyen. The King, required by the Constitution to maintain his political neutrality, evidently takes no part in the negotiations but his meeting with the President of the Commission could have been taken as a great endorsement. The government, which has been accused of wanting to “politicize” the monarchy, denies any plans and maintains that the meeting will remain entirely separate from Brexit. The deal between the UK and the EU is expected to be announced in the next few hours.

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Under proposed changes to post-Brexit rules for Northern Ireland, almost all checks and most paperwork on goods crossing the Irish Sea would be scrapped. Boris Johnson is clearly against it, convinced that Sunak’s plan would still give the EU a certain sovereignty over Northern Ireland. von der Leyen was due in the UK today to announce the deal with Sunak and then meet the King for tea at Windsor Palace. The government seems to have considered naming the agreement the “Windsor Convention”. Open, the meeting is cancelled. But, meanwhile, Downing Street was accused of trying to drag the king into politics.

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Earl Warner

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