There's a rather bizarre article in today's Telegraph. I thought I'd give it a quick fisk for clarity's sake:
The Duchess of Cambridge will become a “potent force” in Britain’s bridge-building with EU countries as Brexit looms, a former ambassador has said, as the Duchess prepares to visit the Netherlands this week. [...] It is likely to be the first in a regular roster of royal visits to European countries by members of the Royal family as the Government deploys them to help “beef up” bilateral relations with individual EU member states.
OK, fair enough. I guess it's a better use of her time than so many other things she does, although I'm somewhat sceptical how interested the Dutch public will be in a visit by the wife of a man who might one day be king. They're probably more interested in their own Royal House.
The Netherlands is Britain’s third-biggest export market, after the US and Germany, accounting for seven per cent of all exported goods, or £27.7 billion. The UK imports £41 billion of goods from the Netherlands every year, making it the third-biggest importer after Germany and China.
Wow, that's quite a trade deficit! I can see why it'd be useful for the British economy if we could export a bit more to them.
One recently-retired British ambassador, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said: “The need for embassies to build bilateral relations has come back into play as a result of the Brexit vote. During our EU membership partners have been cultivated in Brussels by ministers, not in capital cities.
Odd. I wouldn't have thought one needed to exclude the other. Has the membership of the EU perchance made the EU embassies a bit lazy?
“But that is changing and we need to start beefing up our bilateral relationships with EU countries. Those links need to become stronger and the Royal family is a very potent force in that exercise. “It would not surprise me if we see more trips to Europe by members of the Royal family because there are 27 countries and we will want to let them know that we haven’t left the scene.”
I really don't get this. If the powers that be think that UK exports will increase after a visit by a member of the Royal Family, why on Earth haven't they made them visit all EU states regularly for the past forty years? And if it's been neglected because contacts between the relevant ministers of two countries are more useful than contacts between royals, shouldn't the Prime Minister make her ministers travel the World non-stop rather than relying on the Countess of Strathearn?
Royal visits are undertaken at the request of the Foreign Office, following invitations from host countries for the Queen or other members of the Royal family to pay a visit. Strengthening trade links with countries such as India, China and countries in the Middle East is one of the stated goals of royal tours. Until now, there has been little need for visits to European countries because of Britain’s membership of the European single market.
So basically the EU ministers are now refusing to speak to their EU counterparts because they've annoyed them with their xenophobic Brexit nonsense, so the Foreign Office has decided to send in the royals instead? They must truly be desperate!
Commonwealth realms and member states receive far more visits, with European trips largely restricted to war commemoration events or other specific anniversaries. That may now change, however, as Britain contemplates the process of negotiating trade deals with every EU member state.
What!?!? Don't Telegraph journalists have any clue how the European Union functions? No EU member state can make its own trade deals, so although the UK will be regain that power after Brexit, crucially all the other member states won't, and any such deals will have to be made directly with Brussels.
So the visit by the Countess cannot possibly affect a trade deal between the UK and the Netherlands (because there won't be one), and all she can do is to schmooze local business leaders and try to talk them into buying more innovative jam. I'm not saying that's impossible, but she could have done that without Brexit.
If this paragraph is based on a briefing the journalist from The Telegraph got from the Foreign Office, it's rather worrying, though. They should be aware that such trade deals won't be possible, and it smacks of incompetence of the highest order if they think otherwise. They're basically sending the royals out to visit cloud cuckoo land if that's the remit they're giving them.