Queen’s weekly audience with PM postponed due to Brexit talks

The Queen’s weekly audience with the Prime Minister was postponed this week to allow Boris Johnson to focus on the race against the clock to secure a post-Brexit trade agreement.

Mr Johnson usually telephones the monarch each Wednesday evening to update her on Government matters, but there is no record of this week’s audience in the Court Circular.

Buckingham Palace said the Queen will speak with the PM next week.

Mr Johnson travelled to Brussels for a three-hour dinner with European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen on Wednesday.

A Palace spokesman said: “The audience was postponed due to the Prime Minister’s busy diary. One is planned for next week.”

The Queen’s audiences with the PM are traditionally face-to-face encounters, but arrangements have been altered in recent months because of the coronavirus crisis.

When the Queen moved to Windsor Castle for her safety ahead of the first lockdown in March, the monarch and Mr Johnson began holding the conversations over the phone.

Although the monarch remains politically neutral on all matters, she is able to “advise and warn” her ministers – including her PM – when necessary, according to the royal family’s official website.

Secret plans to evacuate the Queen and other senior royals from London were reportedly previously drawn up in case a no-deal Brexit triggered rioting on the streets.

In February 2019, The Sunday Times said Whitehall was formulating emergency proposals which had been repurposed from those originally formulated during the Cold War in the event of a nuclear attack by the Soviet Union.

But that was before the pandemic of 2020 took hold and the Queen decamped from Buckingham Palace to the safety of Windsor in lockdown.

The Queen and Philip
The Queen and Philip

The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh are still in the historic royal fortress in Berkshire, being cared for by their reduced household of staff in what has been dubbed HMS Bubble.

They are preparing for a quiet Christmas together without the rest of the royals.

It will be the first time the Queen, 94, and 99-year-old Philip have spent the festive period at Windsor, rather than heading to Sandringham in Norfolk, in more than 30 years, in a bid to keep them safe during the Covid-19 crisis.

The monarch was dragged into a constitutional row during her summer holiday in August 2019 amid Westminster’s bitter Brexit battles when Mr Johnson asked her to suspend Parliament for more than a month.

The sovereign was duty bound to hold a Privy Council meeting at Balmoral, her private Scottish estate, where, acting on the advice of the PM, she approved an order to temporarily close – or prorogue – Parliament for five weeks.

Opposition leaders wrote to the Queen in protest and then Commons speaker John Bercow said the move was a “constitutional outrage” designed to stop Parliament debating Brexit.

In the end, the Supreme Court ruled Mr Johnson’s advice to the Queen to suspend Parliament was unlawful because it had the effect of frustrating Parliament.