Awkward moment Boris Johnson meets Prince Charles for the first time since he criticised government’s ‘appalling’ Rwanda policy… after PM rowed back on plan to tell future king to be more ‘open minded’
- Charles reported to have privately criticised ‘appalling’ Rwanda deportations as first flight UK was grounded
- PM has urged Charles to keep an ‘open mind’ about the £120m asylum plan, saying it has public backing
- But then rowed back on this plea in the hours before they met in Kigali today at Commonwealth meeting
A smiling Prince Charles has shaken hands with Boris Johnson in Rwanda today amid tensions between the men over the Government’s plans to sent migrants to the east African country.
The heir to the throne and the Prime Minister are both in Kigali for a Commonwealth summit and will meet privately over a cup of tea this afternoon.
Carrie Johnson and Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, are also on the Rwanda trip with their husbands and greeted each other warmly at the Kigali Convention Centre this morning.
The handshake between the PM and the future king came hours after Mr Johnson rowed back on earlier comments that he would tell the Prince of Wales to be ‘open-minded’ about his Rwanda asylum policy if Charles raises criticism in their meeting.
The Queen’s son reportedly called the policy ‘appalling’ in comments made in private and Boris said he would tell the royal about the ‘obvious merits’ of the scheme.
But taking a step backwards today, the Prime Minister told broadcasters in Rwanda: ‘I wouldn’t comment on anything that I say to the Queen or the Queen says to me, nor would I say what the heir to the throne might say to me or what I may say to him.
‘Prime ministers never talk about that. What I will say is as people come to Rwanda, like you have today, there are a lot of prejudices about Rwanda need to be blown away.
‘So, actually, the achievements of the government of Rwanda over the last couple of decades have been remarkable.’
The Prince of Wales shakes hands with Prime Minister Boris Johnson as they attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) opening ceremony at Kigali Convention Centre today ahead of a private meeting where Mr Johnson’s plan to send migrants to Africa is expected to come up
) Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, Secretary-General of the Commonwealth of Nations Patricia Scotland, President of Rwanda Paul Kagame and Prime Minister Boris Johnson attend the CHOGM opening ceremony
Despite his woes in Tiverton and Wakefield overnight, Boris looked animated as he greeted a fellow delegate
After taking his seat the PM looked at the floor and then coughed as he waited for the event to begin
Mr Johnson and Prince flanked the current Commnwealth leaders ahead of their own private meeting
Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, greets Carrie Johnson and shares a kiss with the PM’s wife this morning
Mrs Johnson is accompanying her husband on the trip amid turmoil at home after the Tories took a beating in two by elections
Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his wife Carrie Johnson arrive for the summit
The Prince of Wales was told yesterday to ‘keep his oar out’ of politics as the Tories intensified their attacks on the heir to the throne over his opposition to its Rwanda migrant programme.
Ahead of a meeting between Charles and Boris Johnson in Kigali, backbencher Andrea Jenkyns suggested the future king emulate his mother the Queen and keep a dignified silence.
But Boris Johnson stepped back from comments that he would tell Charles to be ‘open-minded’ about his Rwanda asylum policy if Charles raises criticism in their meeting later.
The Prime Minister’s earlier suggestion he would tell the heir to the throne that there are ‘obvious merits’ to the controversial scheme appeared to frustrate royal aides.
Charles, who has reportedly called the policy ‘appalling’, is due to host Mr Johnson for talks over tea at the Commonwealth summit in Rwanda’s capital of Kigali on Friday morning.
Hours before the potentially tense meeting, Mr Johnson told broadcasters: ‘I wouldn’t comment on anything that I say to the Queen or the Queen says to me, nor would I say what the heir to the throne might say to me or what I may say to him.
‘Prime ministers never talk about that. But what I will say is as people come to Rwanda like you have today, there are a lot of prejudices about Rwanda need to be blown away.
‘So actually the achievements of the government of Rwanda over the last couple of decades have been remarkable.’
Prince Charles and Hassanal Bolkiah, Sultan of Brunei, at the CHOGM Opening Ceremony at Kigali Convention Centre
In a series of earlier interviews, Mr Johnson struck out at ‘condescending’ opponents of his stalled scheme to forcibly remove migrants who arrive through unauthorised means to Rwanda.
And he clearly said he would defend the policy to the heir to the throne if he raised it in their meeting, the first time they will have spoken since the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.
‘People need to keep an open mind about the policy, the critics need to keep an open mind about the policy. A lot of people can see its obvious merits. So yeah, of course, if I am seeing the prince tomorrow, I am going to be making that point,’ Mr Johnson said.
Mr Johnson will be meeting Charles on the fringes of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (Chogm).
The first flight removing people to Rwanda was due to take off last week, but was grounded by successful legal challenges ahead of a full hearing on the scheme’s legality in UK courts.
The policy is one element of a £120 million economic deal with Kigali, but has been widely criticised in part because of concerns about Rwanda’s human rights record.
The Prime Minister said he was ready to defend his £120million policy after Charles was reported to have privately criticised it as ‘appalling’.
Clarence House is understood to be unhappy that public debate over Charles’s remarks about Britain’s policy of removing asylum seekers to Rwanda is overshadowing his well-received trip to the East African nation.
Speaking to LBC radio from a by-election in Wakefield today Ms Jenkyns said: ‘He certainly needs to learn a lot from our fantastic Queen and keep his oar out, most definitely.’
The prince and Mr Johnson are in Rwanda for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM). Mr Johnson suggested yesterday he would make a point about the migration policy’s ‘obvious merits’ when he met Charles over a cup of tea this morning.
Ahead of a meeting between Charles and Boris Johnson in Kigali today Ms Jenkyns suggested the future king emulate his mother the Queen and keep a dignified silence.
He said: ‘I am delighted that Prince Charles and everybody is here today to see a country that has undergone a complete, or a very substantial transformation.’
Mr Johnson told ITV: ‘People need to keep an open mind about the (Rwanda) policy, the critics need to keep an open mind about the policy. A lot of people can see its obvious merits. So yeah, of course, if I am seeing the prince tomorrow, I am going to be making that point.’
It was revealed earlier this month that Charles had been overheard describing the Rwanda scheme as ‘appalling’. Last week Mr Johnson dismissed criticism of the policy from ‘slightly unexpected quarters’ in an apparent dig at the prince and Church of England bishops, who attacked it as ‘immoral’.
The three topics on the agenda for the PM’s meeting with Charles are sustainability, youth, and the history and values of the Commonwealth and Charles’s passion for it. Royal sources said it was ‘unlikely’ the two men would discuss the Rwanda scheme.
Downing Street later repeated the same line in what appeared to be a co-ordinated attempt to play down the prospects of a showdown between the PM and the prince, but a spokesman did not rule out the possibility of Mr Johnson raising it.
Defending the policy during a school visit in Kigali, Mr Johnson said: ‘This is a plan that I think is absolutely necessary and right to fix the problem of illegal cross-Channel trafficking of people whose lives are being put at risk by the gangs.
‘You have to break the business model of the gangs – it is totally the right thing to do.
‘What people need to understand, what the critics of the policy need to understand – and I have seen loads and loads of criticism – is that Rwanda has undergone an absolute transformation in the last couple of decades.’
He said the UK and Rwanda had done an ‘immense amount of due diligence on the way things work, both in the UK and in Rwanda, so that everything we do is in conformity with human rights’.
The trip to Rwanda is seen as hugely significant for Charles. He and Camilla are the first British royals to visit the country, and it is the first CHOGM he has attended since he was chosen to take over as head of the Commonwealth after the Queen.
There has been ‘clear unhappiness’ in the royal camp that comments by Mr Johnson on Wednesday, saying he hoped his trip to Rwanda would help others ‘shed some of their condescending attitudes’ toward the country, had overshadowed the prince’s important day of visits focusing on the 1994 Rwandan genocide.
Charles is being accompanied by the Queen’s private secretary Sir Edward Young, who is the monarch’s main point of contact with No 10. He is there because the Queen remains head of the Commonwealth. It is thought likely that Sir Edward has been involved in discussions behind the scenes to resolve the issue between Charles and the PM.
The first flight removing asylum seekers from Britain to Rwanda was due to take off last week, but it was grounded by successful challenges to the European Court of Human Rights ahead of a full hearing on the scheme’s legality in UK courts.
The policy is one element of a £120million economic deal with Kigali, but has been widely criticised in part because of concerns about Rwanda’s human rights record. Last night, a Rwandan government spokesman said Britain had paid the money in full, and some of it had been spent, making it unlikely that anything will be clawed back should the policy falter.
After meeting Rwandan president Paul Kagame yesterday, Mr Johnson said Mr Kagame ‘cares passionately’ about the UK’s policy having been a refugee in neighbouring Uganda. Mr Kagame has been lauded for his role in ending the 1994 genocide that saw ethnic Hutu extremists slaughter 800,000 people. But his regime has since been accused of political repression, assassinations and the imprisonment of critics.
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