London – Canada on Thursday night refused to keep guarding Harry and Meghan when they step down as working royals.
In what will be seen as a humiliation for the couple, the Mounties said they would no longer pay for their security after March 31.
This means the cost of round-the-clock protection for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex and baby son Archie – which could run to millions of pounds – will fall on UK taxpayers.
It is the first time Canada has confirmed it has been helping to guard Harry and Meghan since they settled on Vancouver Island last November. But on Thursday night it announced this would cease from April in keeping with their “change in status”.
Canada has a legal obligation to provide security to so-called internationally protected persons. The Sussexes arrived there on a temporary visit in November as full working royals, and the Mounties gave them protection as they always have on such visits – with Canadian taxpayers picking up the bill.
But now Harry and Meghan intend to live in North America to pursue lucrative commercial careers and will quit as senior working royals on March 31.
In a statement, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said on Thursday: “The Duke and Duchess of Sussex choosing to relocate to Canada on a part-time basis presented our government with a unique and unprecedented set of circumstances.
“The RCMP has been engaged with officials in the UK from the very beginning regarding security considerations. As the Duke and Duchess are currently recognised as internationally protected persons, Canada has an obligation to provide security assistance on an as-needed basis.
“At the request of the Metropolitan Police, the RCMP has been providing assistance to the Met since the arrival of the Duke and Duchess to Canada intermittently since November 2019. The assistance will cease in the coming weeks, in keeping with their change in status.” The decision puts the globe-trotting couple in a potentially explosive predicament. As recently as last Friday, when they updated their personal website, the Sussexes were adamant they are legally entitled to year-round police protection.
In a statement they said: “It is agreed that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex will continue to require effective security to protect them and their son.
“This is based on the Duke’s public profile by virtue of being born into the Royal Family, his military service, the Duchess’s own independent profile, and the shared threat and risk level documented specifically over the last few years.”
But with Canada now refusing to help, the responsibility for protecting the Sussexes will be placed solely at the feet of the Metropolitan Police – and UK taxpayers.
The annual cost of keeping a team of UK officers to guard them in Canada for most of the year and accompany them on trips around the world has been estimated at £1million (about R20 million) at the very least.
The only other option would be for the couple to agree to pay for their own security guards. Some have suggested they might accept the kind of arrangement favoured by Tony Blair, who pays for his own bodyguards for lucrative foreign business trips.
But the Duke and Duchess appear unwilling to do this, given the strength of their recent statement. Dai Davies, who led the Met’s royalty protection unit, said: “It’s the first time in 300 years of royalty protection that anyone has ever done this to a member of the Royal Family.
“There are two options now for them and us: that the Met will carry on guarding them and footing the bill, which is unacceptable to many, or they agree a system where they make a contribution to the costs personally.
“But their statement doesn’t seem to suggest they would wish to do that. With budgets straining at the moment, this is a huge problem that the Met will have to get a grip on and quickly.’
It was previously reported that Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau had given the UK a commitment that his government would contribute to the costs, although this was never confirmed. Recent polls found that only one in five Canadians believes paying for the couple’s security is an appropriate use of state funds.
The Canadian Taxpayers Federation delivered an 80 000-signature petition to Mr Trudeau’s office opposing footing the bill. There has been similar opposition in the UK. Buckingham Palace and the Met refused to comment on Thursday night, and it was clear Scotland Yard had been caught unawares by the Canadian statement.
A spokesman for the Sussexes said: “Buckingham Palace does not comment on the details of security arrangements. There are well-established independent procedures to determine the need for publicly-funded security.”
Scotland Yard is already carrying out a full review of security for the duke and duchess. A joint committee made up of the Home Secretary, the Met’s royalty protection command chief, and palace officials are assessing whether their 24-hour protection should continue. Mr Davies has estimated the bill will exceed £1million a year for their close protection team and extra uniformed police required on engagements. He said the cost of each officer will reach £100 000 for salary, overtime, overseas allowance, pensions, flights and accommodation.
Harry is in the UK completing his last official engagements as a senior royal, and will be joined by Meghan next week. Today he will record a charity single for his Invictus Games Foundation with rock star Jon Bon Jovi at Abbey Road Studios in London.