Brexit charm offensive: Royals 'our best ambassadors', says minister

Rhiannon Mills, Royal Correspondent

The Royal Family are Britain's "best ambassadors" to maintain good relations with European countries, foreign minister Sir Alan Duncan has told Sky News.

Speaking in Italy while accompanying Prince Charles on what has been touted as a Brexit charm offensive around the continent, Sir Alan said the royals "put us politicians to shame".

He said: "The great thing about the Royal Family is that they are above politics and so they set the image and the attitudes of the United Kingdom in a fantastic way."

Sir Alan gushed: "I just think they are the best advertisement for the UK across the world."

The Prince of Wales is in Florence with his wife the Duchess of Cornwall, attending a series of engagements focusing on food, farming, wool and culture.

UK ministers, as part of the royal delegation, are expected to travel with them to Rome on Tuesday and Wednesday when the Prince will meet senior Italian political figures.

:: Prince Charles walks amid ruins of quake-hit Amatrice

On Sunday, Charles visited the town of Amatrice where he hugged some of those who lost loved ones in last summer's earthquake.

He walked through the rubble of the "red zone" where all the buildings have been demolished and met families who are now living in temporary accommodation.

Charles and Camilla are spending five days of this tour in Italy. The Prince has already visited Romania and the royal couple will also travel to Austria.

The tour is seen as an important diplomatic mission in the week after Theresa May triggered article 50, paving the way for Britain to leave the European Union.

Silvia Francescon, at the European Council on Foreign Relations think-tank in Rome, believes the Prince's visit to Amatrice sends a positive message but doesn't believe the royal tour can impact on Brexit negotiations.

She told Sky News: "I don't think it's going to make a big difference in terms of policy or what is going to change. We are just at the beginning and even the negotiators themselves don't know what is coming."

By the end of the year the Royal Family will have visited the majority of the EU's major member states - France, Germany, Italy and Poland - with the King of Spain also coming to the UK for a state visit.

The Government and Foreign Office see the "soft power" of the Royal Family as a vital tool for maintaining friendships with European countries, and creating a positive environment within which Britain will negotiate its exit from the EU.

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