Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will this week help decide whether the Prince of Wales should succeed his mother as head of the Commonwealth.
The future head of the Commonwealth, a role held by Queen Elizabeth II since taking the throne in 1952, is on the agenda at this week’s Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) meeting in London.
Theresa May’s official spokesman on Monday declined to say whether the British Prime Minister thought the position should go to Prince Charles, stressing that it was a decision for the 53 leaders of Commonwealth states.
The spokesman told a regular Westminster media briefing that the issue was expected to be discussed when the Commonwealth leaders gather for a retreat at Windsor Castle on Friday.
Malcolm Turnbull is expected to back the succession of Charles at CHOGM
Fairfax Media has reported Mr Turnbull, former head of the Australian Republican Movement, will recommit Australia to the position adopted by Julia Gillard as prime minister in 2011 to support Charles as the next head of the Commonwealth.
It said the government stance on the succession was signalled in February, but was confirmed ahead of Mr Turnbull’s flight to London.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has said that Charles should not automatically take over from the Queen as head of the Commonwealth, suggesting the holder of the post could be decided on a rotational basis.
And Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson insisted that the decision was “a matter for the 53”.
Asked whether Mrs May believed Charles should be the Commonwealth’s next head, the spokesman said: “This is obviously a decision that is taken later in the week, a decision taken by all the members together.
“I think that all happens on Friday.”
While the Queen has been head of the Commonwealth since coming to the throne, the position is not automatically held by the British monarch.
A statement on the Commonwealth Secretariat website states: “When the Queen dies or if she abdicates, her heir will not automatically become Head of the Commonwealth. It will be up to the Commonwealth heads of government to decide what they want to do about this symbolic role.”
Mr Corbyn said on Sunday: “I think the Commonwealth ought to really get a chance to decide who its own head is in the future.
“The Queen clearly is personally very committed to the Commonwealth but after her I think maybe it’s a time to say well actually the Commonwealth should decide who its own president is on a rotational basis.”
Commonwealth Secretary-General Baroness Scotland sidestepped questions over her personal preference during a TV interview on Sunday, saying that the 53 heads of government “will make a decision in whatever way they determine”.