Daily catch-up: Who could have told The Sun the Queen backed Brexit?

The Queen is reported to have told Nick Clegg she thought the EU was heading in the wrong direction. The Palace says it's 'spurious' and Clegg says he 'can't remember it'. Where could the story have come from?

John Rentoul@JohnRentoul
Wednesday 09 March 2016 09:23
Her Majesty speaks at the State Banquet for the Irish president, 8 April 2014
Her Majesty speaks at the State Banquet for the Irish president, 8 April 2014

The Sun's political editor, Tom Newton-Dunn, reports that the Queen told Nick Clegg, when he was Deputy Prime Minister, that the EU was heading in the wrong direction: “People who heard their conversation were left in no doubt at all about the Queen’s views on European integration. It was really something, and it went on for quite a while."

It suggests that this means she would support the UK leaving the European Union.

The Sun quotes a Buckingham Palace spokesman:

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.

And it quotes Clegg:

I have absolutely no recollection of it. I don’t have a photographic memory. But I think I would have remembered something as stark or significant as you have made it out to be.

No doubt you’ll speak to someone else and they’ll say, ‘I was there I heard it’. Fine. But I really can’t remember it at all.

Anyway, without sounding pompous, I find it rather distasteful to reveal conversations with the Queen.

These look rather like non-denial denials, although the Palace is trapped in its usual dilemma of not wanting to set a precedent by confirming or denying private comments. By Palace terms, that is quite a firm denial.

I suspect the truth is that the Queen is sceptical in the true sense of the word about European integration. It is her sovereignty that is being pooled, after all. I have no idea, but I would have thought she would be satisfied with David Cameron's pragmatic negotiation of formal semi-detached status, and that she is unlikely to be a headbanging Outer.

So where could the story have come from? The Sun says the conversation took place at "a lunch at Windsor Castle", according to a "highly reliable ... senior source". In the newspaper it says the lunch was in 2011, although this date is not in the online version of the story.

A look at the Court Circular, now a searchable online database, reveals that the Deputy Prime Minister attended a meeting of the Privy Council at Windsor Castle on 7 April 2011:

There were present: the Rt. Hon. Nicholas Clegg MP (Lord President), the Rt. Hon. Michael Gove MP (Secretary of State, Department for Education), the Rt. Hon. Cheryl Gillan MP (Secretary of State for Wales) and the Lord McNally (Minister of State, Ministry of Justice).

Might that have been followed by lunch? If you can spot any anti-EU highly reliable senior sources in there, you win today's "Elementary, my dear Watson" Sherlock Holmes prize.

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