British telecoms giant BT has warned it will only continue to back a digital skills award scheme if Prince Andrew is dropped as patron, as pressure mounts over the royal role of the British Queen’s second son.
The firm joins a growing number of multimillion-euro businesses, universities and charities who have distanced themselves from Andrew in the wake of his interview about his friendship with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.
BT called for the Duke of York to be removed as patron of iDEA – The Duke of York Inspiring Digital Enterprise Award – a programme which helps develop digital enterprise and employability skills.
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.”
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) who 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 imprisoned earlier this year.
In the Newsnight interview, the duke also denied claims he slept with Virginia Giuffre, one of Epstein’s victims, on three separate occasions, twice while she was under age.
A spokesman for Murdoch University told the PA news agency: “Murdoch University has today advised Buckingham Palace it would not continue its participation in Pitch@Palace in 2020.
“We remain committed to supporting innovators and entrepreneurs.
“However, in the current circumstances we have decided that our efforts in this area are best served through other means.”
A Bond spokeswoman said: “We have previously said any new agreement would be considered in 2020. However, in light of recent events, the university does not intend to seek any further involvement.”