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Barclays and BT distance themselves from Duke of York

BARCLAYS and BT have become the latest high-profile firms to distance themselves from the Duke of York, as pressure mounts over the royal role of the Queen’s second son.

Banking giant Barclays said it is concerned about the situation and is keeping its involvement with Pitch@Palace under review, while telecoms giant BT warned that it will only continue to back a digital skills award scheme if Andrew is dropped as patron.

A growing number of multimillion-pound businesses, universities and charities have severed ties with the duke in the wake of his interview about his friendship with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.

Barclays had renewed its sponsorship of Pitch@Palace in recent months. But a spokesman for the bank said: ‘Pitch@Palace as an organisation has made an undeniable impact on supporting entrepreneurs and creating new jobs, which is why we are keen to support the programme.

‘However, we are concerned about the current situation and are keeping our position under review.’

BT called for Andrew to be removed as patron of iDEA — The Duke of York Inspiring Digital Enterprise Award — a programme that helps develop digital enterprise and employability skills.

Under pressure: The Duke of York during his interview for BBC’s Newsnight PICTURE: PA

A spokesman for BT said: ‘We have been working with the company since its launch in 2017 and our dealings have been with its executive directors, not its patron the Duke of York.

‘As a leading provider of online digital skills training, iDEA was a natural partner for our new Skills for Tomorrow programme.

‘However, in light of recent developments, we are reviewing our relationship with the organisation and hope that we might be able to work further with them, in the event of a change in their patronage.’

Buckingham Palace said the duke was still the patron of iDEA and there was nothing to add.

Murdoch University in Perth has ended its relationship with Andrew’s tech initiative Pitch@Palace Australia, joining Bond University and the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT), which have also terminated their association, while the University of Wollongong (UoW) is reviewing its support.

Andrew was accused of showing a lack of empathy towards Epstein’s victims and a lack of remorse over his friendship with the disgraced financier, who took his own life while in prison earlier this year.

In the Newsnight interview, the duke also denied claims that he slept with Virginia Giuffre, one of Epstein’s victims, on three separate occasions, twice while she was under age.

The duke cancelled a visit to flood-ravaged communities in South Yorkshire on Tuesday, but Buckingham Palace maintained this was not because of the fall-out from his interview.

It also emerged that Andrew’s BBC interview contradicted a senior aide’s account of his friendship with Epstein.

The duke said he first met the since-disgraced financier through ‘his girlfriend back in 1999’.

But in March 2011, the duke’s then-private secretary, Alastair Watson, wrote to The Times newspaper saying Andrew met Epstein in the ‘early 1990s’.

London Metropolitan University is also considering the duke’s role as its patron, while a student panel at Huddersfield University passed a motion to lobby Andrew to resign as its chancellor.

Asian-focused bank Standard Chartered joined KPMG in deciding not to renew its sponsorship of the Pitch@Palace scheme.

AstraZeneca’s three-year partnership with Pitch@Palace is due to expire at the end of this year and is being reviewed, and Outward Bound Trust, of which Andrew is patron, is to hold a board meeting to discuss the matter.

A number of charities and organisations of which the duke is a patron declined to give details on whether their association with Andrew would change.