Rishi Sunak has been accused of a “cynical” plan to “abuse” the King’s position by using him to promote the Government’s Brexit deal with the EU on Northern Ireland.
The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) said that an aborted plan to get the monarch to meet Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, reflected either “naivety or desperation”.
It was understood that Downing Street had planned for the King to meet Mrs Von der Leyen on Saturday as part of the choreography to unveil a deal struck with the EU on changes to the Northern Ireland Protocol.
It was also understood that the pair were to meet at Windsor Castle and that the deal could even have been called the Windsor Agreement.
However, the meeting did not go ahead amid concerns about dragging the monarch into political matters.
Sammy Wilson, the DUP’s Brexit spokesman in the House of Commons, said that his party was “totally amazed” when it got wind of the planned meeting.
“We concluded that not only is the Prime Minister naive, if that’s what he was planning to do, but this is a cynical use or abuse of the King,” he told Sky News on Saturday.
“He knows full well amongst our supporters in Northern Ireland there is a great regard and a great respect for the King as there was for the late Queen.
“He knows that the King’s intervention would be seen by many of our supporters as an endorsement of the deal. And he also knows, of course, that in doing so he was dragging the King into a hugely controversial political issue, not just in Northern Ireland but even within his own party.
“The only conclusion we can come to is that he knows in these negotiations he hasn’t achieved the objectives he set out for himself and his own party, nor has he achieved the promises that he made to ourselves, and was now trying to get the King to try and pull the thing over the line for him.”
Mr Wilson went on: “I don’t know if it was just naivety or desperation and I hope the Palace would have given it short shrift very quickly.”
Meanwhile, Lord Dodds of Duncairn, the DUP’s leader in the House of Lords, said that the revelations raised questions over Mr Sunak’s judgment. He tweeted on Friday evening:
Government sources have stressed that the King would take no role in negotiations and was always mindful of constitutional matters.
The row came as Mr Sunak prepared to unveil a deal with the EU on the Protocol, the post-Brexit agreement which prevents a hard border with the Republic of Ireland by moving checks to the Irish Sea.
The DUP has been boycotting the Northern Ireland Assembly since Feb 2022 in protest at the Protocol, which they believe puts the province’s place in the Union at risk while subjecting it to EU rules over which local politicians have no say.
Mr Wilson said that the DUP had received no indication that Mr Sunak had dealt with this “democratic deficit”.
“If he hasn’t succeeded in achieving that aim then as part of the UK, we cannot accept it,” he added.