King Charles will meet Ursula von der Leyen 'for tea' before new Brexit deal announced

27 February 2023, 11:31 | Updated: 27 February 2023, 11:59

King and VdL
King Charles will meet European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen for tea on Government advice. Picture: Twitter/Alamy

By Chay Quinn

King Charles will meet European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen for tea on Government advice as Rishi Sunak attempts to seal a new Brexit deal with the EU.

The King will meet the bloc's head as the Government attempts to get a new Brexit agreement over the line later today.

Von der Leyen is in Britain to seal the latest arrangement which seeks to put issues over the Northern Ireland Protocol to bed - seven years after the EU Referendum.

The move, which was requested by the Government, could spark a row over the monarchy becoming involved in political matters.

Urusla von der Leyen
Urusla von der Leyen. Picture: Twitter
King Charles
King Charles. Picture: Alamy

Buckingham Palace confirmed the meeting between Charles and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

The 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."

News of a potential meeting between the pair was first mooted on Saturday - and led to conversations about the Government using the monarchy to score political points.

The involvement of the King in political matters is a potential constitutional issue - with the monarch usually remaining above such matters.

The statement from Buckingham Palace suggests that the meeting was a Government idea - in an apparent attempt to prevent claims of political bias.

The move caught the ire of Tory backbencher Jacob Rees-Mogg, who said that The King should only get involved after there is agreement between the bloc and the UK, which is currently not the case.

Rishi Sunak
Rishi Sunak is attempting to smooth out post-Brexit trade issues with a new deal. Picture: Getty

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The news of the meeting comes as Rishi Sunak negotiates with von der Leyen at 10 Downing Street this lunchtime before a Cabinet meeting in the early afternoon.

Downing Street claimed the prime minister is seeking "a negotiated solution in the best interest of the people of Northern Ireland".

Once the deal has been signed by Britain and the EU, Sunak and von der Leyen will hold a joint press conference on Monday afternoon.Sunak will then address the House of Commons on the terms of the agreement.

It comes after months of negotiations on the Northern Ireland Protocol, the most contentious element of the current withdrawal agreement which outlines the terms of Britain's exit from the EU.

Changes to the clause are intended to smooth out the movement of goods between mainland Britain and Northern Ireland.

Currently chilled meat products including sausages cannot move across the Irish Sea to Northern Ireland under rules in the Customs Union, of which Belfast is still a part.

The European Court of Justice will continue to oversee how single market rules apply in Northern Ireland - a key concern for Tory backbenchers - but the EU has reportedly allowed new safeguards to ensure cases cannot be directly referred to it by Brussels, the newspaper reported.

One former cabinet minister told The Times: “It is probably not perfect and they don’t tell you its weaknesses. But frankly it sounds like something that Boris would have grabbed with both hands if he’d been offered it.”

Deputy PM Dominic Raab yesterday said the two parties were "on the cusp" of a deal, while Irish PM Leo Varadkar said tweaks to the Northern Ireland Protocol were "inching towards a conclusion".

Raab also made indications as to what the new deal could contain, including a so-called "green lane" for GB goods passing into Northern Ireland with lighter checks to ease friction on trade.

But Northern Ireland has no say over the terms of the Customs Union, enabling a so-called democratic deficit.

The new agreement features “significant and far reaching” changes to the withdrawal agreement not previously considered by Brussels, a Downing Street source told The Times.

The EU has reportedly agreed to scrap checks on most goods sent from Britain to Northern Ireland, as well as a promise to not apply more than 90 per cent of single market rules on products made in Northern Ireland.

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