Commonwealth ‘as vital as ever’, Charles tells hosts in St Lucia

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The Prince of Wales has begun a major tour of Caribbean commonwealth countries by stating the family of nations is as “vital” today as at any point in its 70-year history.

Charles said the institution’s 53 member states have the power to tackle global challenges like climate change as he was welcomed to St Lucia by a military rally and parade.

Post-Brexit, the Commonwealth will be an important avenue for global trade, commerce and influence for the UK, and the heir to the throne has already been named as its future head, who will one day succeed the Queen.

The prince will spend 12 days touring the region, with an historic visit to Cuba the highlight, with the Duchess of Cornwall.

Charles spoke at the open-air event before St Lucia’s prime minister Allen Chastanet, governor-general Sir Emmanuel Neville Cenac, British High Commissioner Steve McCready and other guests including students.

Charles said: “The Commonwealth has been a cornerstone of my life for as long as I can remember and, through all the unprecedented global challenge of these past seven decades, it seems to me that the Commonwealth remains as vital today as it has ever been.”

Speaking about the global threat posed by climate change the prince went on to say: “Importantly, the Commonwealth brings us together and gives us the means to harness shared opportunities, as well as to address common challenges.

“There is no greater challenge facing all of us, in my view, than that of global warming and climate change which, I know, poses nothing short of an existential threat to this island as it does to every part of this region.”

He went on to talk about his 2017 visit to the Caribbean in the wake of hurricanes Maria and Irma to see for himself the damage wreaked by the natural disasters.

Charles also praised St Lucia’s “abundant talent and creativity” which got enthusiastic applause from the crowds in stands at the sports field hosting the event.

The trip to the island paradise was a brief stop of a few hours for the heir to the throne before he flew on to Barbados where the Duchess of Cornwall is waiting having flown out ahead of the start of the tour.

Royal tour of the Caribbean
The Prince of Wales speaks at the official welcome ceremony (Phil Noble/PA)

The Caribbean nation’s prime minister Allen highlighted the benefits Brexit will bring to his citizens when Britain leaves the EU.

He said: “The advent of Brexit also presents new possibilities for us a small island and now with your royal highnesses’ appointment to the helm of the Commonwealth, we look forward to a new, invigorated and strengthened Commonwealth.”

The Prince of Wales talking to dancers at the official welcome ceremony and parade
Charles talks to dancers at the official welcome ceremony and parade (Jane Barlow/PA)

He also presented an honour that recognises outstanding volunteers – the Commonwealth Point of Light Award – to Dorothy Phillip, president of Faces of Cancer St Lucia.

With its tropical forests, famous Pitons – towering volcanic plugs that are a World Heritage site – and picturesque towns the island is the archetypal Caribbean island.

Royal tour of the Caribbean
The prince is presented with flowers as he attends the Governor-General’s Reception at the Serenity Hotel, Coconut Bay, St Lucia (Jane Barlow/PA)

The former crown colony of Britain, whose economy has moved from sugar production to tourism and banana growing is one of the Queen’s realms meaning Charles is not a foreign royal but a prince of St Lucia.

Before leaving for Barbados Charles was guest of honour at a reception staged on the beach front at a hotel resort.

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