Government warned against hastily demoting Prince Andrew from trade role

Downgrading Prince Andrew from his special trade role would be the 'wrong step', despite his controversial dealings with a discredited businessman, according to one senior public affairs figure.

Prince Andrew: Controversy over Epstein friendship
Prince Andrew: Controversy over Epstein friendship

Reports suggest that Downing Street is considering a review of the Prince’s role as Britain's special trade representative as ministers look to distance themselves from his dealings with discredited business figures.

Prince Andrew, whose remit includes promoting Britain's business interests around the world, has been criticised over his friendship with convicted paedophile and American financier Jeffrey Epstein.

But senior public affairs figures have criticised plans to downgrade the Prince’s role, suggesting there ‘is a case to be made to defend his position’.

‘Downgrading is the wrong step. You make it clear you have no faith in him and therefore dilute any value he might have for drumming up UK trade,’ said George Pascoe-Watson, partner at Portland.
 
‘The big question here is whether or not Prince Andrew brings in business for the UK. His relationship with Jeffrey Epstein has caused real damage to Prince Andrew’s reputation. To pretend anything different is very short-sighted.
 
‘If HRH brings in business, then there is a case to be made to defend his position and to change perceptions about his work.’

James Acheson-Gray, MD, International at Grayling, commented: 'In the past, we have worked with the Duke of York on various client assignments in Asia and understood him to be professional and helpful. The "brand" value of royalty can be powerful in some international contexts. Downing Street, however, certainly needs a full understanding of any future liabilities.'

He added: 'His private secretary has sent a number of letters to the national media, but if they feel that they have a case they need to escalate the PR offensive fairly quickly and call on some of his supporters to speak out.'

Jon McLeod, chairman, corporate communications and public affairs at Weber Shandwick, said he expected changes to the Prince's role, but that the damage to the Prince’s reputation was likely to be felt ‘more at home than abroad’.

'There is reputational harm, but probably more at home than abroad, where there is less of an obsession with the British Royal Family,’ he said.
 
'The thing about the Royal Family is that it cannot be sacked short of a civil war. That option is not on the table, so some vigorous nuancing of Andrew's role can be expected.'
 
Prince Andrew has been the UK's special representative for international trade and investment since 2001.

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