Royal diplomacy to play key role in life after Brexit

The royal family has been facing its own Megxit crisis, but life post-Brexit for the Windsors will mean their roles as ambassadors, charged with maintaining and strengthening ties to Europe and beyond, will be more crucial than ever.

Using their brand of soft diplomacy, the royals’ all important overseas tours, undertaken at the request of the Foreign Office, will be key opportunities to launch a charm offensive on behalf of the UK.

And nothing quite matches the allure of a state visit to the UK, with pomp and ceremony, a stay in Buckingham Palace or Windsor Castle, an opulent state banquet and the chance to spend some one-on-one time with the Queen, as a way of building bridges with foreign leaders.

Donald Trump and the Queen
US President Donald Trump and the Queen during American leader’s state visit to the UK (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

With the Queen, 93, no longer carrying out overseas visits and the Duke of Edinburgh having retired, Brexit diplomacy trips fall to the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall, and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

The Firm will no longer be able to call on the Duke and Duchess of Sussex to share the burden of overseas tours.

Harry and Meghan had pledged to focus on the Commonwealth in their royal duties, but now are quitting the monarchy for a life of personal and financial freedom, mostly in Canada.

Royal visit to Africa
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex will no longer be carrying out tours like their visit to South Africa (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

The Duke of York is also out of the picture following his disastrous Newsnight interview about the Epstein scandal.

But the monarch’s other children the Earl of Wessex, along with Edward’s wife the Countess of Wessex, and the Princess Royal will continue their own less high profile overseas trips.

In the run up to and following the triggering of Article 50 in March 2017, the start of the UK’s formal withdrawal from the EU, Charles, Camilla, William and Kate carried out a string of official visits to the continent.

William and Kate visited France, took their children to Germany and Poland, and also journeyed to Belgium, and the duke made a solo trip to Finland, followed by visits to Sweden and Norway with Kate in 2018.

Royal visit to Poland
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge with Prince George and Princess Charlotte on a five-day tour of Poland and Germany (Arthur Edwards/The Sun/PA)

Heir to the throne Charles was on a nine-day tour to Austria, Italy and Romania when Article 50 was triggered.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office said at the time: “Royal visits play a very important role in the United Kingdom’s bilateral diplomacy.

“The Royal Family are excellent and experienced ambassadors for the United Kingdom.

Royal tour to Europe
The Prince of Wales meeting President of Romania Klaus Iohannis on the day Theresa May triggered the start of the UK’s formal withdrawal from the EU (Chris Jackson/PA)

“Whilst every royal visit is unique, each visit is designed to support foreign policy objectives and promote closer ties across a range of areas, for example cultural, economic or political, between the UK and the host country.”

Incoming state visits to the UK in recent years have included King of Spain King Felipe VI, King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands and US President Donald Trump.

In the spring, the Queen will welcome Emperor Naruhito of Japan to Windsor Castle for an official state visit.

President Trump's state visit
US President Donald Trump and the Prince of Wales inspect the Guard of Honour during the Ceremonial Welcome during the US state visit to the UK (Victoria Jones/PA)

In her Christmas Day address, the monarch acknowledged the “bumpy” path her family and the country has faced during the past 12 months.

Following a year of bitter debates in Parliament and the country over leaving the bloc, she said the Christmas message of peace and goodwill still had relevance and was a reminder of what can be achieved when people abandon their differences and “come together in the spirit of friendship and reconciliation”.

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