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The journey of the Spanish Royals on an official visit to the United Kingdom

Next week’s visit underlines the wishes of Spain to maintain the best relations after Brexit

King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia will highlight the importance to British society by the Spaniards who live in the UK, and they will meet with scientists and businessmen.

Hoping for an extended bilateral relationship and to transmit a message of calm and optimism in these uncertain times, given the negotiations for the UK to leave the EU recently started.

Diplomatic sources admit this State visit has a tremendous symbolic importance, having been postponed on two occasions, in March 2016 for the uncertain political life in Spain and in June this year for the British election, and finally a full year after the Brexit referendum.

It’s the first State visit by Spanish monarchs to Britain since 1986 and then the priority was to establish a new deeper relationship between the two countries in the framework of the EU, and now the challenge is to maintain the same protecting umbrella.

The Spanish Kings will stay in Buckingham Palace and the speech from Don Felipe before the British Parliament, and the lunch with the PM Theresa May, and the fact that Queen Elizabeth II wants to share all the British Royal Family during a gala supper on the day of their arrival.

In fact, according to the sources, the bilateral relations between Spain and Great Britain are at an historical high. Institutional cooperation is very intense, especially in defence and security, but also economically and for social interaction.

Spain is the largest investor in the United Kingdom – bilateral trade was in 2016 over 30 billion € (with a surplus for Spain of 8 billion €) and the United Kingdom is the main destination for Spanish investors with at least 140,000 direct jobs dependent on Spanish investments.

Great Britain sends the most tourist to Spain (17.8 million in 2016 – 25% of the total) and between the two countries fly 35 million passengers a year, with Spain having most direct air connections with the UK (17% have departure or origin in Spain against 9% for the US)

To those we add 130,000 Spaniards registered in the British consulates and the 300,000 Britons registered in Spain – the real number is at least double. In British universities and study centres work 5,000 Spanish researchers and the Spanish language is taught in 70% of secondary schools and 89 % in private schools.

The social-cultural presence of Spain in the United Kingdom has some symbols; the director of the English National Ballet is Spanish Tamara Rojo, Spanish chefs of prestige – as Arzak or Eneko Atxa have restaurants in London and the Premier League has more than 30 Spanish players and technicians.

The negotiation over Brexit is in the hands of the European Commission and does not form part of the official agenda of the King, but it is bound to be mentioned during some aspects in the visit, which includes meetings with Spanish businessmen and collectives.

Neither will Gibraltar be mentioned given Spain’s position is firm, but this has not handicapped mutual relations.

PROVISIONAL PROGRAM

Wednesday 12 July
Prince of Wales with the Duchess of Cornwall will welcome the Spanish monarchs and take them to meet the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh.
Followed by a private lunch with two royal couples and then together they will visit the Spanish collection in the Buckingham Palace.
King Felipe VI will then speak to both chambers of the British Parliament and in the evening a gala supper in Buckingham Palace.

Thursday 13 July
Morning meetings between Spanish and British businesses and after the Spanish couple will attend Westminster Abbey to pay homage for the fallen.
Lunch with Theresa May in 10, Downing Street and in the evening a dinner offered by the Mayor of the City of London, Sadiq Khan.

Friday 14 July
After saying official goodbyes to the Queen Elisabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh, a visit to the Francis Crick institute, were Spanish employees and scientists will meet the monarchs and then an audience with a representation of the Spanish Scientists Association in the United Kingdom.

Then, it is expected they will travel to Oxford, where his father, Juan Carlos I was invested Doctor Honoris Causa during a State visit 31 years ago. There they will visit the Weston Library and participate in a lunch in his honour.

The last item on the agenda is a meeting with the academic community in Exeter College with Spanish professors and students.