Buckingham Palace complains over ‘Queen backs Brexit’ story

‘The Sun’ published report claiming monarch told Nick Clegg of doubts about EU in 2011

 The Sun newspaper published a story indicating that Queen Elizabeth II was backing a British exit from the EU on its front page. Photograph: Andy Rain/EPA

The Sun newspaper published a story indicating that Queen Elizabeth II was backing a British exit from the EU on its front page. Photograph: Andy Rain/EPA

 

Buckingham Palace has made a formal complaint to Britain’s press watchdog after the Sun newspaper claimed that Queen Elizabeth had expressed strong Eurosceptic views and wanted Britain to leave the EU. The front page story, headlined “Queen backs Brexit”, said the queen had voiced her criticism of the EU to former deputy prime minister and Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg during a lunch at Windsor Castle in 2011.

“The 89-year-old monarch firmly told passionate pro-European Mr Clegg that she believed the EU was heading in the wrong direction. Her stinging reprimand went on for ‘quite a while’, leaving other guests around the table stunned,” the newspaper said, adding that the queen had also expressed Eurosceptic views at another meeting with parliamentarians.

A Buckingham Palace spokesman rejected the suggestion that the queen was taking sides in the referendum, but did not deny that the reported conversations had taken place.

“The queen remains politically neutral, as she has for 63 years. We would never comment on spurious, anonymously sourced claims. The referendum will be a matter for the British people,” he said.

Mr Clegg said he had met the queen at lunch a number of times while he was in government but insisted that he did not remember any conversation such as that reported in the Sun.

“It is not true. I have certainly, absolutely no recollection of a conversation like that, which I suspect I would have remembered if it had taken place. I just think it’s wrong that people who want to take us out of the European Union to now try and drag the queen for their own purposes into this European referendum debate,” he said.

Rare complaint

Sun Independent Press Standards Organisation

The Sun said it was standing by its story, which it said was based on “two impeccable sources” and promised to defend the complaint vigorously.

According to the court circular, Mr Clegg attended just one lunch with the queen at Windsor Castle in 2011, a meeting of the privy council on April 7th. Also present were justice secretary Michael Gove and former Welsh secretary Cheryl Gillan, both of whom are campaigning for Britain to leave the EU.

Amid suggestions that he could have been the source for the Sun’s story, a spokeswoman for Mr Gove declined to say if he recalled the reported conversation.

“We don’t comment on private conversations with the queen,” she said.

Pro-Brexit campaigners have complained in recent weeks about an alleged pro-EU bias in remarks by members of the royal family, citing vaguely internationalist comments by the queen in Berlin last year and by Prince William during a speech at the foreign office this year.