The prime minister will continue to work to secure a post-Brexit deal after plans for an in-person meeting with the European Commission president were cancelled.

After having “positive” discussions with Rishi Sunak on Friday, Ursula von der Leyen was expected to arrive in Britain on Saturday to continue talks on the Northern Ireland Protocol.

But UK government sources confirmed that Ms von der Leyen was no longer scheduled to travel to the UK.

Some reports suggested that Downing Street expected her to shake hands in a revised pact during her visit, while Sky News reported that she was also due to meet the King at Windsor Castle on Saturday.

The broadcaster’s report said the meeting could have been interpreted as Charles “endorsing the deal” the prime minister is trying to negotiate with the European Union to resolve Brexit-related issues.

Baroness Hoey, a Northern Ireland Brexiteer and former Labor MP, tweeted: “If true I can’t believe even Rishi Sunak’s advisers who clearly don’t understand Northern Ireland could have even contemplated this.

“It would be scandalous and I think King Charles would not have accepted it.”

UK government sources said that while Ms von der Leyen’s trip would no longer take place, it would not have been inappropriate for the King, as head of state, to have met a visiting European leader.

“It would be wrong to suggest that the King would be involved in anything remotely political,” a government source told the PA news agency.

Buckingham Palace said it would not comment.

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The King was said to meet the European Commission President in Windsor before it was canceled (Victoria Jones/PA)

No 10 said that more talks between Sunak and von der Leyen would take place in the coming days, without being more exact on the times.

Speculation that number 10 is preparing to confirm a deal to fix the protocol intensified on Friday after a Downing Street source said “good progress” had been made during a phone call between the prime minister and the president.

The pair have spoken three times in the past week, including holding face-to-face talks on the sidelines of the Munich security conference last Saturday.

Unusually, Downing Street refused to outline Sunak’s plans for the weekend.

With Cabinet ministers reportedly on alert for a possible conference call over the weekend and Conservative MPs ordered into Parliament in a three-line whip on Monday, Westminster has braced for a No Protocol announcement. 10.

The protocol, signed by former Prime Minister Boris Johnson in 2020, was designed to avoid a hard border with Ireland after Brexit by keeping Northern Ireland in the European Union’s single market.

But the treaty has outraged unionists because of the trade barriers it has created between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

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Prime Minister Rishi Sunak spoke to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Friday (Steve Reigate/Daily Express/PA)

Sunak had reportedly been eager to announce a deal this week, but the number 10 said on Friday that “intensive negotiations” with Brussels were still underway.

According to The Times, the current offer on the table would mean a revised protocol that would remove almost all checks and most paperwork on goods crossing the Irish Sea.

Any announcement of a deal is expected to spark a potential showdown with Brexit hardline Conservatives.

Sunak has promised that the House of Commons will be able to “have a say” on the new terms of his protocol, which he hopes will see the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) restore power-sharing in Northern Ireland.

The DUP has issued seven tests to win its backing for any deal, including tackling what it calls Northern Ireland’s “democratic deficit” which is subject to EU rules without having a say in them.

The Daily Telegraph, which reported that a breakthrough could be made over the weekend, said it was understood the DUP would be given a seat at the negotiating table when new EU laws applicable to Northern Ireland are drafted.


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