Britain's Prince Andrew to step down as trade envoy: report

21st July 2011, Comments 0 comments

Prince Andrew is to step down from his role as Britain's trade ambassador, reports said Thursday, just four months after his links to a sex offender prompted calls for him to quit the unpaid role.

Sky News and the Daily Mail newspaper reported that the prince, 51, would be leaving his job as the government's special representative for international trade and investment, which he has held since 2001.

However, they said Queen Elizabeth II's second son would continue to travel the world in a less formal role to promote UK trade.

Neither Andrew's office at Buckingham Palace or the UK Trade and Industry (UKTI), the government agency which helps decides the destinations of his trips, would comment on the reports.

The former Royal Navy commander, who is fourth in line to the throne, is not paid for his job but his expenses are met from the government coffers.

In recent years, the prince has been dogged by accusations of lavish trips, links with key figures in repressive regimes and outspoken comments.

His friendship with Jeffrey Epstein, a wealthy US businessman jailed in 2008 for soliciting a minor for prostitution, led to accusations from one opposition politician in March that Andrew had become an "embarrassment".

"I think we should be dispensing with his services. I think the charge list against him is so long now that he is a bit of an embarrassment," said former minister Chris Bryant, a lawmaker for the Labour party.

The prince's ex-wife, Sarah Ferguson, also became embroiled in the Epstein row after it emerged the businessman gave her £15,000 ($24,200, 17,100 euros) at Andrew's request to help pay off her reported multi-million-pound debts.

However, Prime Minister David Cameron's government threw its full support behind Andrew at the time, saying he was doing a "good job", while his spokesman denounced the "insinuations" in the press.

Diplomatic cables released by the WikiLeaks website last year meanwhile showed US officials were shocked by the "rude" prince's "astonishing display of candour" during a business trip to Kyrgyzstan.

© 2011 AFP

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