Prince Andrew step down as Britain's trade envoy

21st July 2011, Comments 0 comments

Prince Andrew is to step down as Britain's roving trade ambassador, Buckingham Palace said Thursday, four months after his links to a sex offender prompted calls for him to quit.

The 51-year-old Duke of York is to leave his unpaid job as the government's special representative for international trade and investment, which he has held since 2001, travelling the world in support of British business.

However, Queen Elizabeth II's second son is likely to continue working to boost British business in a lower-profile way.

"The role as special representative will no longer exist as the Duke of York has decided to relinquish it after 10 years," a Buckingham Palace spokeswoman said.

She stressed that Andrew would continue to make official trips abroad as a member of the royal family in support of Britain's foreign interests.

British Prime Minister David Cameron paid tribute to the prince's efforts.

"I would like to thank the Duke of York for the major contribution he has made over the last decade to UK trade and the huge support he has given to British businesses," he said in a statement.

"I am certain that he and others in the royal family will continue to support and promote British business interests both at home and overseas."

The former Royal Navy commander, who is fourth in line to the throne, was not paid for his job at the UK Trade and Industry (UKTI) government agency, but his expenses were 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".

The prince's ex-wife, Sarah, Duchess of York, 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.

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

Former trade minister Digby Jones, now a business ambassador at UKTI, told BBC television of Andrew's role: "There will be a bit less travelling and a lot more working with apprenticeships and with young people in Britain to get them skilled up to make the stuff we can sell around the world.

"It's the next natural step from what he's been doing.

"Let's use what he can do to actually create some profit, employ some people, pay some tax and get ourselves out of this mess," he said, referring to Britain's record deficit.

© 2011 AFP

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