King Charles III on Tuesday raised a heavy post-Brexit stalemate between the UK and the European Union during a meeting with Northern Ireland’s hostile political leaders.
Britain’s new monarch met with leaders at the royal grounds of Hillsborough Castle as part of a tour of the UK following the death of his mother, Queen Elizabeth II.
In a speech in Hillsborough, Charles pledged to “seek welfare” for all divided communities in Northern Ireland, noting that the queen had “relentlessly prayed for the best for this place and its people”.
He hosted a reception with party leaders after the speech, including Jeffrey Donaldson of the pro-UK Democratic Unionist Party and Michelle O’Neill of Sinn Fein, who wanted reunification with Ireland.
Charles expressed interest in the matter of the Northern Ireland Protocol regarding Brexit, engaging in a lengthy conversation with Donaldson on the matter, the domestic PA news agency reported.
Donaldson said he hoped that ongoing negotiations with the EU on protocol reform would “move forward”, the report reported without citing sources.
Sinn Fein emerged at the forefront of Northern Ireland elections in May, but the DUP has refused to let the regional council reconvene unless London and Brussels abandon the protocol.
The treaty required inspection of goods entering Northern Ireland from the British mainland, prompting DUP concerns that the territory was slowly being separated from the UK.
However, Donaldson welcomes conciliatory fuss from the EU about potential changes to reduce testing, the PA said, as the new UK government presses legislation to amend the protocol on its own.
Charles meanwhile thanked O’Neill for his condolences to Sinn Fein over his mother’s death, PA reported.
After Hillsborough, a religious ceremony was held in Belfast, where Charles shook hands with Irish President Michael D. Higgins, during the king’s first meeting with another head of state.
Stormont speaker Sinn Fein in Northern Ireland, Alex Maskey, delivered a speech during the ceremony, before the king met the wise outside the church and flew out to London.
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