LONDON — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Tuesday he believes the royal family can resolve a serious rift over the plans of Prince Harry and his wife Meghan, who want to break free of their royal roles and move to Canada.
The plans of Harry and Meghan, also known as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, have received tentative approval from Queen Elizabeth II, who said she and other senior royals regret the decision but understand and respect it.
Vital details remain to be worked out, with difficult issues to resolve, and Canada’s leader has raised questions as well, but the British prime minister told the BBC that the monarchy will be able to find solutions.
“My view on this is very straightforward: I am a massive fan, like most of our viewers, of the queen and the royal family as a fantastic asset for our country,” Johnson said. “I’m absolutely confident that they are going to sort this out.”
He said the senior royals, who had a crisis summit Monday afternoon at the queen’s palatial Sandringham House retreat in eastern England, will be able to find an amicable way forward “much more easily without a running commentary from politicians.”
Harry and Meghan ignited the latest crisis by unilaterally issuing a statement Wednesday indicating a desire to step back from most royal duties and become financially independent. They have decided to spend at least part of their time in Canada, a Commonwealth country where the queen is head of state and Meghan worked for seven years while filming the TV series “Suits.”
The move annoyed senior royals who had not been consulted, sparking the so-called Sandringham summit that brought together the 93-year-old queen, her eldest son and heir Prince Charles, and Prince William, who would follow his father Charles to the throne, along with Harry.
Few details emerged, but the queen’s statement afterwards indicates the family won’t seek to block Harry and Meghan’s bid for independence from royal roles they clearly find restrictive.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, speaking after the queen made clear the couple has chosen Canada as its alternate destination, said his country welcomes the news but has issues to discuss, including the possible cost to taxpayers of providing security for the well-known royal couple.
“I think most Canadians are very supportive of having royals be here, but how that looks and what kind of costs are involved, there are still lots of discussions to have,” he told Canadian TV, adding that no formal talks between the British and Canadian governments have been held.
Britain’s royals are protected by a special unit of London’s Metropolitan Police, also known as Scotland Yard, at a cost that is not made public because of concerns that details about its operation could compromise the royals’ safety.
In addition to cost concerns, it is likely that special arrangements would have to be made to allow London police to operate on a long-term deployment in Canada.
Many financial questions remain. The queen says Harry and Meghan don’t plan to use public funds when they step back from royal duties, so it is possible they may be asked to pay for security out of their own pockets.
The royals seem to be adopting a “go slow” attitude toward the breakaway couple, with the queen talking about a period of transition.
Harry and Meghan have declared that one of their goals is to become financially independent. It is not known if they will continue to receive financial support from Harry’s father, Prince Charles, who uses income from the Duchy of Cornwall estate to support a variety of royal activities. The estate generated more than 20 million pounds ($26 million) last year.
Harry and Meghan have announced plans to launch a major charitable institution in the coming year, but details haven’t been made public. In the past they have focused on female empowerment, wildlife protection, ending the stigma surrounding mental health problems and other issues.
They just took a six-week vacation in western Canada with their infant son Archie. Meghan has returned to Canada after a brief visit to London last week.