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Queen gets dragged into Brexit controversy

Press Trust of India  |  London 

Buckingham Palace today issued a strong denial and filed an official complaint after a popular British tabloid claimed that Queen Elizabeth II was in favour of 'Brexit', as she believed the 28-nation European Union was moving in a "wrong direction".

The 'Sun', Britain's most-read newspaper, quoted highly- placed anonymous sources as part of its front-page article headlined 'Queen Backs Brexit', alongwith a photograph of the 89-year-old monarch.

"The Queen remains politically neutral, as she has for 63 years. We would never comment on spurious, anonymously-sourced claims. The referendum will be a matter for the British people,"a Buckingham Palace spokesperon said.

The Palace later announced that it has registered an official complaint with the UK's Independent Press Standards Organisation against the report.

Britain is to vote in a referendum on June 23 to decide if the country will remain in the EU or leave the 28-nation economic bloc.

The newspaper claims a "bust-up" between the Queen and pro-EU former UK Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg in 2011 in which the monarch told Clegg the EU was "heading in the wrong direction".

Clegg has since dismissed the report as "nonsense".

"This is categorically untrue. Nick has no recollection of this conversation and it is not the sort of conversation you forget," a spokesperson for the former deputy PM said.

The newspaper's introduction reads: "The Queen was hailed as a backer of Brexit yesterday after details emerged of an alleged bust-up between her and Nick Clegg over Europe... A source said: 'People were left in no doubt about her views on Europe'."

The paper also refers to a separate conversation with British lawmakers at the Palace a few years ago when it claims the Queen said: "I don't understand Europe".

These words, an unnamed parliamentary source said, she spoke with "venom and emotion".

Tom Newton Dunn, the 'Sun's' political editor, says that the paper would not have reported the Queen's remarks "had they not come from two different and impeccably placed sources".

A newspaper spokesperson stressed the newspaper "stands by" the story after reports of an official complaint being filed by the palace.

Opinion polls show voters are divided over the UK's membership of the EU with both "Leave" and "Remain" camps intensifying their campaigns to garner votes.

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First Published: Wed, March 09 2016. 19:23 IST