Commonwealth leaders are secretly meeting in London this April to decide whether Prince Charles should become King after Queen Elizabeth dies.
According to insiders, a ‘high level group’ of seven leading figures will meet to discuss plans for succession and then report to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) on its findings, which is expected to the be the last the Queen will attend.
Dailymail.co.uk reports: The Queen, who turns 92 in April, was proclaimed Head of the Commonwealth at her coronation when she was head of state in seven of its eight members, and wants Prince Charles to succeed her.
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But it is not a hereditary position that will pass automatically to the Prince of Wales, who will be head of state in only 15 of the 53 member nations that now make up the Commonwealth.
A senior source told the BBC, which saw the agenda of the high level meeting: ‘I imagine the question of the succession, however distasteful it may naturally be, will come up.’
The agenda is reported to say: ‘Discussions will take into consideration the issues raised in the first session and also the wider governance considerations of the Commonwealth.’
Any decision about the future would have to be made by the Commonwealth heads of government at the time of the Queen’s death, but there is no formal process for choosing her successor.
While many Commonwealth figures presume there will be no realistic alternative to Charles, there has in the past been talk of electing a ceremonial leader to improve the organisation’s democratic credentials.
Her Majesty has been sending officials around the world to lobby Commonwealth leaders to ensure Prince Charles succeeds her.
At the most recent CHOGM two years ago in Malta, the Queen said she could not ‘wish to have been better supported and represented in the Commonwealth than by the Prince of Wales who continues to give so much to it with great distinction’.
The developments will be of interest to Theresa May’s government, which has emphasised the importance of the Commonwealth post-Brexit.
In March last year, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson pointed out the Commonwealth will soon overtake the EU in terms of the size of its economy.
He said it illustrated how important it is to get good trade deals with the Commonwealth, and how the UK can survive outside the EU.
He told ITV’s Peston on Sunday: ‘It is a stunning fact that when the UK joined the Common Market back in 1973, the 28 countries then had about 38 per cent of global GDP. The Commonwealth then was about a quarter of that.
‘The EU and the Commonwealth in GDP, in output terms are now roughly level-pegging and the Commonwealth is growing far faster.
‘Now, of course the EU is massively important for us and will continue to be colossally important for our trade and our investment. But we now have the opportunity to do deals with the Commonwealth.’
Mrs May said: ‘The UK has a long-standing and firm commitment to the Commonwealth and to the values it upholds, of democracy, human rights and the rule of law.
‘And in hosting the Commonwealth summit next year, the UK is committed to working with all members not only to reaffirm these shared values, but also to re-energise and revitalise the Commonwealth to cement its relevance to this and future generations.
‘As we look to create a truly global Britain, the deep partnerships that we share through a 21st century Commonwealth can help us strengthen the prosperity and security of our own citizens, and those of our many friends and allies across the world.’