UK returns from ‘no cars, no private jets’ VIP advice for Queen Elizabeth’s funeral

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LONDON — Downing Street has rowed over leaked government guidelines for world leaders traveling to Queen Elizabeth’s funeral which required them to abandon their official cars and arrive by shuttle bus.

Official documents issued to embassies overseas and obtained by POLITICO on Sunday say world leaders ‘will be required’ to leave their personal vehicles at a site in west London on September 19 and attend funerals in coaches shared. The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) blamed “strict security and road restrictions” for the move.

On Monday, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman confirmed that the UK government – rather than Buckingham Palace – was taking the lead on logistical arrangements, but declined to comment on specific details “for operational security arrangements”.

But when asked whether US President Joe Biden really should arrive at Westminster Abbey by bus, the spokesperson said it would be up to the US leader to decide.

“I think that would be a question for the United States and how they prefer the president to travel,” he said.

“I would say the clear arrangements for leaders, including how they travel, will vary depending on individual circumstances. And the advice and information provided is advice.

The private document sent to the embassies on Saturday evening was however unequivocal. “Foreign representatives invited to attend state funerals will be required to travel in coaches escorted via [a location in west London]where their own vehicles can wait,” he said.

The document also advised world leaders to take commercial flights to the UK where possible, but said private jets could be used if they arrived at London’s less busy airports.

Earlier on Monday, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said he would ignore the advice and attend the funeral in his official jet.

“I will be traveling this Thursday evening from Australia,” Albanese told ABC Breakfast. “These plans have been in place for a long time, long before I became prime minister.”

Australian Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles told ABC Radio National that it would not be “reasonable” for a world leader like Albanese to take a commercial flight, despite advice from the FCDO.

Marles, who is also Australia’s defense minister, said security was the “primary consideration”.

“There are real issues with having prime ministers on commercial planes in terms of the safety of the public who are also on those planes, so we have to be reasonable about that,” he said.

Meanwhile, the list of confirmed guests continues to grow for a diplomatic event with few parallels of late. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, Italian President Sergio Mattarella, Irish Prime Minister Micheál Martin and South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol confirmed their attendance on Monday.

Leaders like US President Joe Biden, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had already done so last week.

Japan’s Emperor Naruhito, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and French President Emmanuel Macron, among many others, are also likely to attend the funeral.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has yet to confirm whether he will travel to London. There has been no word yet from Chinese President Xi Jinping, who will leave China this week for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began to attend a summit in Central Asia.

UK returns from 'no cars, no private jets' VIP advice for Queen Elizabeth's funeral

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