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After UK calls election, Spanish royals scramble to find new date for visit

Felipe VI of Spain had been planning to address British parliament between June 6 and 8

The governments of Spain and the United Kingdom have begun exploring new dates for the Spanish royal family visit to London, originally planned for June 6 to 8 this year. The invitation was issued by Queen Elizabeth, but diplomatic sources recommended postponing the visit after Prime Minister Theresa May announced early elections in Britain to be held on June 8.

Spanish king Felipe VI.
Spanish king Felipe VI. AFP

Sources consulted by EL PAÍS said that the United Kingdom will be in an electoral mood on those dates, making them unsuitable for the first state visit by the Spanish monarchs to the British Isles in more than 30 years.

This is the second time that a visit to Britain has had to be placed on hold

With parliament dissolved, it would also be impossible for Felipe VI of Spain to address members of parliament (MPs) at Westminster, in what is meant to be the most relevant item on his agenda. The idea was to revisit a historical address by Felipe’s father, Juan Carlos I, who in 1986 became the first foreign monarch to speak before a joint session of the UK parliament.

This is the second time that a royal visit to Britain has had to be put on hold. Earlier plans for a visit in March of last year were scrapped due to the political stalemate in Spain. The lengthy preparations involved in this sort of visit, coupled with the tight agendas of both royal families, makes it particularly challenging to find a new date that works for both sides.

Spain's King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia in London in 1997 for the Golden Wedding Anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip.
Spain's King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia in London in 1997 for the Golden Wedding Anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip. AP

Both governments have expressed an interest in finding the earliest date possible, especially at a time when incipient Brexit negotiations extend a shadow of uncertainty over Britain’s future relations with the European Union.

Asked how the dissolution of British parliament would affect the state visit by the Spanish king, Foreign Minister Alfonso Dastis, who was scheduled to go along on the trip, was initially cautious.

“Let’s wait and see if there are elections. First, there needs to be a vote,” he said on Wednesday, alluding to he fact that the snap general election required approval by parliament. That vote took place just hours later, with MPs approving the election by 522 votes to 13.

English version by Susana Urra.

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