U.K. Lawmaker Calls for Referendum on Royal Family's Future After Prince Harry and Meghan Markle 'Step Back'

The decision by Prince Harry and his wife Meghan Markle to "step back" from royal duties makes it the ideal time for British people to decide what role the royal family should play in society, a contender to lead the country's opposition Labour Party has said.

Clive Lewis raised the idea of a ballot about the royals as he launched his bid to replace Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the party, following its crushing defeat to the Conservatives at the General Election last month.

Lewis said a lot of people had discussed that the monarchy was "quite large" and asked: "Why not have a referendum on the future of the Royal Family?"

British MP Clive Lewis
British Labour politician Clive Lewis at an event in Brixton, south London on January 10, 2020. The contender to lead the party has said there should be a referendum of the role of the monarchy members in the wake of Prince Harry and his wife Meghan Markle announced they would quit royal duties. BEN STANSALL/Getty Images

"Let's talk about what a modern state looks like and what the role of the royal family would be," he said, adding "I'd rather see us as citizens than subjects in the 21st century," the BBC reported him as saying.

Lewis, who represents the Norwich South constituency in Norfolk, east England, and is of West Indian heritage, said he sympathized with how the Duchess of Sussex had been at the receiving end of racism from the media, adding, "I think it is extremely unfortunate and a sign of the media we have that they feel they had to do this."

In a statement he later issued on Twitter, Lewis clarified that he was not calling for the abolition of the monarchy: "I simply think the question about their size and the money they receive should be one for the public. Asking these questions is democratic."

In response to my comments about the royal family. I didn’t say they should be abolished, I have lots of respect for the hard work they do. I simply think the question about their size & the money they receive should be one for the public. Asking these questions is democratic.

— Clive Lewis MP (@labourlewis) January 10, 2020

The Instagram announcement on Wednesday by the Duke and Duchess that they want to become financially independent from the taxpayer-funded Sovereign Grant has generated much debate over whether they have the right to having the trappings of royalty courtesy of the public purse.

Figures show that they already have considerable wealth and only five percent of the cost of their household is covered by the Sovereign Grant.

The other 95 percent of their income is given to them privately by Harry's father, Prince Charles, through revenues generated by his private estate, the Duchy of Cornwall.

Meanwhile, the group Republic, which lobbies for an abolition of the monarchy, said that the royal couple's announcement is "really is wanting to have your cake and eat it."

"To suggest that they're not already financially independent is incredibly crass and belies a sense of self-entitlement and a lack of self-awareness that is common among royals," the group's spokesman Graham Smith said.

"Taxpayers will rightly ask who will be funding their overseas lifestyle, their extra security and trips back and forth between here and North America."

"The monarchy needs to be asked serious questions about what they're up to, it's not good enough to be told to wait for clarification or to be left reading the tea leaves to work out what their intentions are," Smith added.

The BBC reported that Markle has returned to Canada to be with her son Archie while the royal family, which is said to be "hurt" at the couple's intentions, tries to find a solution to their announcement.