William urges business leaders to build trading connections

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The Duke of Cambridge has told business leaders that as the nation looks to the future, everyone recognises the importance of "strengthening links with old friends and creating new opportunities".

William's comments, made at the launch of an event dubbed the "Glastonbury of business", may be interpreted by some commentators as a reference to UK trade post-Brexit.

The duke has agreed to become the patron of the Liverpool-based 2018 International Business Festival, aimed at helping firms scale up to the next level and forge trading links overseas.

In a speech to entrepreneurs, he said: "The festival's organising principle is that business can, and should, be a force for good.

"As we look to the future, we all recognise just how important it will be that we work to build connections with trading partners all around the world - strengthening links with old friends and creating new opportunities."

He added that he was "very pleased to see the way in which the festival is particularly focusing on SMEs (small and medium sized enterprises) this year as the backbone of our economy."

Duke of Cambridge
Prince William was speaking at Lancaster House in London (Alastair Grant/AP)

The royal family have been dubbed Brexit ambassadors for the number of European-focused official trips they have made this year.

Their ability to use soft diplomacy to renew and strengthen ties with continental countries as Britain leaves the EU is seen as invaluable.

There was a reference to the issue of Brexit by Max Steinberg, founder and chairman of the festival, who told guests: "Last year's festival began as the country was preparing to take to the polls to vote on its future and it clearly decided its future lay outside the European Union.

#BusinessFest Chair, @LiverpoolVision CEO (& all round #SilverFox) Max Steinberg CBE takes to the stage with a big announcement... pic.twitter.com/M6U6DJB74T

-- TheBusinessFest (@TheBusinessFest) September 28, 2017

"Somebody asked me what it was like running the festival during the Brexit vote my (answer) was 'it was like colonic irrigation' - it's good for you but you don't realise that till a long time afterwards."

The festival, supported by a number of Government departments and initiatives, is a biennial event and was first held in 2014 and will next be staged over nine days in June next year.

Its launch was staged in the sumptuous surroundings of Lancaster House in London where the popular Netflix series The Crown was filmed.