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Charles to tell Commonwealth leaders dropping Queen ‘for each to decide’

The Prince of Wales is expected to tell Commonwealth leaders that keeping the Queen as head of state or becoming a republic is “a matter for each member country to decide”.

His comments are due during the opening ceremony of a summit of Commonwealth prime ministers and presidents in Rwanda, when he will say he believes such fundamental changes can be made “calmly and without rancour”.

His observations are likely to be interpreted as an acknowledgment of forces already in motion as a number of Caribbean nations have suggested they may drop the British monarchy and elect their own heads of state.

Barbados took the historic move of replacing the Queen as head of state in November last year and elected its first president during a ceremony witnessed by the prince.

He is representing the Queen at the Commonwealth heads of government meeting (Chogm), where his visit has been overshadowed by a row over reported comments he made criticising the government’s scheme to send asylum seekers to Rwanda.

The prince’s office, Clarence House, has refused to be drawn on comments made by Boris Johnson who on Thursday appeared to take a swipe at the prince and those who have attacked his plans to forcibly remove migrants to Rwanda.

The prime minister said before a meeting with Charles on Friday: “People need to keep an open mind about the policy, the critics need to keep an open mind about the policy.”

In response, a Clarence House spokesperson said: “As we have said previously, we will not be commenting on supposed remarks made in private except to say that the prince is politically neutral. Policy is a matter for government.”

In his address at the opening ceremony, Charles is expected to say: “The Commonwealth contains within it, countries that have had constitutional relationships with my family, some that continue to do so, and increasingly those that have had none.

“I want to say clearly, as I have said before, that each member’s constitutional arrangement, as republic or monarchy, is purely a matter for each member country to decide.

“The benefit of long life brings me the experience that arrangements such as these can change, calmly and without rancour.”

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s visit to the Caribbean in March appeared to raise the issue of other realms – nations where the Queen is head of state – breaking away from the British monarchy.

Jamaica’s prime minister, Andrew Holness, who has travelled to Rwanda for Chogm, suggested to the couple his country may be the next to become a republic.

While a few days after the Prince William and Kate left Belize, Henry Charles Usher, minister for constitutional and political reform, reportedly told Belize’s parliament: “Perhaps it is time for Belize to take the next step in truly owning our independence. But it is a matter that the people of Belize must decide on.”

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Before the opening ceremony in the capital, Kigali, Charles, who has been joined by the Duchess of Cornwall, will meet the Rwandan president, Paul Kagame, and the first lady, Jeannette Kagame, the Commonwealth secretary general Lady Scotland and Johnson and his wife, Carrie.

After the “family photo” of world leaders, Charles and Johnson are scheduled to have their catch-up meeting but it is understood, despite suggestions from the prime minister, the two men are unlikely to discuss the controversial asylum policy.

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