In an evening marked by customary tradition, hospitality, and good cheer, the comment by the London’s Lord Mayor Andrew Parmley that ” Britain, Spain, Europe are the essence of what we are” resonated across the banquet room of the Guildhall last night
It drew spontaneous applause from the more than 700 guests- City of London councillors and officials, businessmen , ambassadors , and a representative sample of the Spanish diaspora from journalists, actors and academics, to scientists, retailers, and bankers.
Noting that the magnificent hall where the guests were gathered had been entertaining Royalty for 600 years, Parmley was on firm ground, paying tribute not just to the King and Queen of Spain, but Britain’s European history, make it clear that majority opinion in the City of London was extremely unhappy with the prospect of Brexit.
Indeed to listen to King Felipe deliver in response, as he has done throughout his state visit, his own speech full of warm words of recognition of the strong commercial, cultural, educational, and royal bonds that link the British and Spanish people, was to retain some glimmer of hope that Brexit might not happen at all.
And yet Brexit remained the dark shadow looming over an otherwise uplifting and highly successful three day state visit , that has confirmed King Felipe as a modern monarch, with statesman like qualities as well as diplomatic charm, as well as the extent to which UK-Spanish relations have been forged thanks to Europe not in spite of it.
The uncertainly provoked by Brexit was a recurrent theme of conversation last night , with guests noting the real problems that awaited the UK economy outside a customs union and a single market, and the extent to which the UK risked diminishing her role in the global community, and squandering Spain’s goodwill.
As guests emerged from their dinner, several remarked that at least they had felt for an evening to be part of a new reinvigorated EU, a pocket of necessary resistance to the hard Brexiteers in the heart of the City, that daily becomes more vocal.