William and Kate to visit France as expected Brexit trigger date nears

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge side by side looking confident
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are heading for France

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are to arrive in France this afternoon in what has been described as a ‘charm offensive’ visit as the official start of Brexit approaches.

With Prime Minister Theresa May expected to trigger article 50 in around 10 days’ time, the royal visit is being made at the request of the Foreign Office.

The couple arrive this afternoon on the Eurostar and are set to meet President François Hollande and attend a reception at the British Embassy called Les Voisins, celebrating cultural links between the UK and France.

During the two-day visit they expect to meet young French leaders from sectors like the arts, sport, business, fashion and charities as well as military award winners and people involved in the response to the terrorist attacks of the past two years.

They will also attend tomorrow’s France-Wales Six Nations rugby match at Stade de France.

This will be Prince William’s first official visit to Paris since his mother’s death 20 years ago, though he has reportedly returned for private trips.

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The visit comes as Mrs May is planning her own tour around Britain, starting with a speech in Cardiff this weekend, seeking to gain consensus after the law giving her the power to fire the Brexit starting gun received royal assent yesterday.

A trigger deadline of the ‘end of the month’ is still expected, possibly around March 27-28, following celebrations to mark the 60th anniversary of foundational EU document the Treaty of Rome on March 25. An anti-Brexit protest march is planned in London on the anniversary day.

Meanwhile, reacting to Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s wish for a second Scottish referendum on independence by Spring 2019, Mrs May said ‘now is not the time’.

She said England and Scotland needed to pull together to get the best Brexit deal.

A spokeswoman for Luxembourg MEP Charles Goerens, who proposed an ‘associate EU citizenship’ plan which is backed by European Parliament chief negotiator Guy Verhofstadt, has told Connexion the European Parliament is expecting to vote on a resolution on its negotiating position as early as April 3, should the article 50 trigger come around March 27.

Mr Goerens expects the text of the resolution will contain a paragraph on the ‘associate EU citizenship’ plan. 

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