Monday 26 August 2019

'Queen not happy' after May refused to share her EU exit plan

Queen Elizabeth was said to be disappointed after the meeting Picture: PA
Queen Elizabeth was said to be disappointed after the meeting Picture: PA

Gavin Cordon

Britain's Queen Elizabeth is reported to have been "disappointed" with Prime Minister Theresa May after she declined to share details of her plans for leaving the EU during her first visit to Balmoral.

A "source close to the monarch" has been reported as saying Mrs May stuck to her "Brexit means Brexit" line when she went to stay in Scotland in September.

Her reluctance to offer more insight into her private thinking was said to have come as a disappointment to the queen and Prince Philip.

Neither Buckingham Palace nor Downing Street would comment on the report.

A palace spokeswoman said: "By long-established convention, we never disclose details of discussions between the queen and her prime ministers. Nor would we comment on anonymously sourced conjecture of this kind."

Behind the scenes there was irritation at the report, with one source insisting it was not representative of Mrs May's conversations with the monarch during her two-day stay in Scotland.

The visit - an annual fixture for prime ministers - came just two months after Mrs May entered No 10 following the resignation of David Cameron in the wake of the Brexit vote in June.

Although she had attended regular weekly audiences with the queen it was the first occasion the two women had spent an extended period of time together.

While Mrs May may have had little time to clarify her thinking on Brexit at that point, she has since regularly frustrated MPs with her repeated refusal to offer a "running commentary" on her plans.

It is not the first time reporting of the queen's supposed concerns about the EU have sparked controversy.

Earlier this year, former deputy prime minister Nick Clegg flatly denied a report in 'The Sun' that the queen had vented her frustration with Brussels at him during a private lunch at Windsor Castle.

Meanwhile, European attitudes towards Brexit have hardened in the six months since the referendum, with support for Britain declining "significantly" because of the approach Mrs May has taken, according to a new report.

The report, by a group of academics working on the 'UK in a Changing Europe' initiative, warns that many in continental Europe regard the UK as "living on Fantasy Island" over its hopes for its new relationship with the EU - something which could lead to a "showdown" following the tabling of Article 50 in March.

A crunch issue is likely to be the "divorce bill" expected to be presented to the UK by the European Commission, which reports suggest could be as much as £60bn (€70bn).

The report's authors predicted the demand would be "a considerable embarrassment" politically for Mrs May and could result in a court battle which would drag on long after the expected date of UK withdrawal in 2019.

London School of Economics assistant professor Sara Hagemann said Mrs May's post-referendum tour of EU capitals "seems to have generated little support for the British cause".

The prospect of Brexit has "united the EU27 to a degree rarely seen before", with none of the remaining members ready to agree to an arrangement that looks attractive to eurosceptics in their own countries, she wrote.

"While several of these countries first expressed the hope that a solution would be found to keep London 'closely involved in EU affairs', attitudes are now quite different."

Irish Independent

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