The Duke of Cambridge was today set to follow the Queen by publicly urging unity and leadership in the Brexit debate during a visit to Northern Ireland.
Prince William, second in line to the throne, is expected to give a nod to the current Brexit difficulties and the need for strong leadership and calm debate during a keynote speech in Belfast tonight.
His carefully- worded intervention, coming during an unannounced visit to Northern Ireland with his wife the Duchess of Cambridge, will also be seen as a veiled call for Ulster politicians to get back to running their country from Stormont, which is currently suspended.
The Standard understands that the Queen, who closely monitors Irish politics, has discussed Brexit and the Irish backstop issue at length with senior members of her family — including the Prince of Wales and William.
It also understands that the Queen has suggested that senior royals promote compromise and a less embittered debate on Brexit as part of their public agendas.
Prince William is set to deliver his speech at the Empire Club in Belfast at 7pm tonight in an engagement to celebrate young people and their achievements in the region.
In it he is also expected to stress the importance of communities working together.
Prince William’s subtle Brexit intervention comes after the Queen called for people to show “respect” and the need for a “coming together” at a Women’s Institute meeting last month.
She told WI members in January: “As we look for new answers in the modern age, I for one prefer the tried and tested recipes, like speaking well of each other and respecting different points of view; coming together to seek out the common ground; and never losing sight of the bigger picture. These approaches are timeless, and I commend them to everyone.”
Palace insiders confirmed Her Majesty was fully aware the wording and timing of her speech would be seen as her getting involved in the Brexit debate.
As head of state, the Queen constitutionally remains publicly politically neutral. Her family are expected to do the same.
The location of William’s speech is important too, given the controversy surrounding the so-called Northern Ireland backstop.
The backstop is a position of last resort, to maintain an open border on the island of Ireland in the event that the UK leaves the EU without securing an all-encompassing deal.
At present, goods and services are traded between the two jurisdictions on the island of Ireland with few restrictions.
The UK and Ireland are part of the EU single market and customs union, so products do not need to be inspected for customs and standards.
As usual with royal visits the Duke and Duchess’s visit was kept secret until after they arrived at lunchtime.
William and Kate started the first day with a visit to Windsor Park football stadium, home of the Irish Football Association (IFA).
The IFA run outreach programmes that benefit the mental and physical health of local communities. ‘Shooting Stars’ encourages young girls to play football and ‘Ahead of the Game’ works to support clubs and volunteers when dealing with mental health issues, with a focus on challenging the stigma and preventative measures.
In Fermanagh The Duke and Duchess were seeing first hand the work that the charity Extern is doing at their Roscor Youth Village, which is a residential activity centre for children referred to the charity by social workers or the Department of Justice.
The site provides a safe space to help and support these young people, with particular emphasis on outdoor activities and developing independent living skills.
Ending the day back in Belfast at the iconic Empire Music Hall, Their Royal Highnesses will attend a party celebrating young people who are making a real difference in Northern Ireland.
The band LARKS will take to the stage, and guests will encompass representatives from Northern Ireland’s business, arts and sport sectors, including Dame Mary Peters who was today appointed Lady Companion of the Most Noble of the Garter by Her Majesty The Queen.