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Dutch King Willem-Alexander regrets Brexit turbulence

Dutch King Willem-Alexander regrets Brexit turbulence

  • 9 October 2018
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  • Brexit
Image copyright EPA
Image caption After centuries as good neighbours, the Dutch and British will continue to work together after Brexit

Royal dissent on Brexit has emerged - not from the British royal family, but from their Dutch houseguests.

In a couple of weeks King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands will meet The Queen at Buckingham Palace, on his first state visit to the UK.

Ahead of the journey, journalists seated on red velvet chairs in his palace got to quiz the king, as he shared his thoughts on Brexit.

King Willem-Alexander said he and and his government regretted Brexit and anticipated changes to the current trade arrangements.

He would have liked the EU referendum result to go the other way, but said they respected the sovereign British people's choice.

A curiosity of Dutch royal rules is that the king cannot be directly quoted - leaving his thoughts to be paraphrased in print.

Trade with the UK will change, he said, but he believes it will still be very strong after the UK leaves the EU.

The Dutch and British have worked together as neighbours for centuries and he thinks that will continue after Brexit, he said.

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Image caption British journalists seized a moment of the king's time

And King Willem-Alexander knows a thing or two about crossing the British border: he flies passenger jets for KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, his country's national carrier.

Inverness tops the list of UK destinations he loves flying to.

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Beyond maintaining his pilot's licence, he describes flying as a very serious hobby. With up to 200 passengers who depend on him for their safety, it's a hobby that allows him to focus and forget everything he leaves behind. It's also fun.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The king made a surprise visit to this market in immigrant-dominated Schilderswijk in 2016

When he arrives on 23 October, however, the occasion will be much more formal.

He is looking forward to a demonstration of the joint British-Dutch marine corps on the Thames, and a visit to Brixton in south London - an example of how once-deprived communities can become hotbeds for creativity and business innovation.

The sprightly 51-year-old is the second-youngest monarch in Europe, and is popular with his people. He views his role as that of uniting the people, being authentic and relevant - traits that some may recognise in the younger generation of British royals.

But he doesn't think the glamorous Meghan and Harry model can be exported.

It's difficult to compare such things across borders, he says. You have to be true to yourself - you can't maintain anything else long term.

And King Willem-Alexander does some things differently to his British counterparts. His three teenage daughters attend state schools, and are largely left alone by the Dutch press, where tabloid paparazzi are not really a concern. The royal family's privacy is generally respected.

But like Britain's Prince Harry, the king did not marry into royalty.

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Image caption The royal family: Princesses Amalia, Alexia, and Ariane are mostly left in peace by Dutch media

He met his flamboyant Argentinian wife, Queen Máxima, when she was working for a private bank, and he initially hid his royal status from her as they courted. A sceptical Dutch public was won over as quickly as their new queen learned Dutch, embracing her role and injecting a dose of Latin American sass into the centuries-old monarchy.

His Majesty's advice for Meghan and Harry on a happy marriage is simple: as long as they're true to each other, they can withstand all the pressures from outside.

And that advice is not limited exclusively to royal households, he says.