A new national flagship, the successor to the Royal Yacht Britannia, will promote British trade and industry around the world, Boris Johnson has said.
The vessel would be used to host trade fairs, ministerial summits and diplomatic talks as the UK seeks to build links and boost exports following Brexit. It would be the first national flagship since Britannia, which was decommissioned in 1997, but the new vessel would be a ship rather than a luxury yacht.
A name for the vessel has not been announced, but Johnson has faced pressure from campaigners and Tory MPs to name it after the Duke of Edinburgh, who played a role in designing Britannia.
The government intends to build the ship in the UK, at a reported cost of up to £200m.
Johnson said: “This new national flagship will be the first vessel of its kind in the world, reflecting the UK’s burgeoning status as a great, independent maritime trading nation.”
After tendering for design and construction, it would begin being built as soon as 2022 and it enter service within the next four years. The ship would be crewed by the Royal Navy and is expected to be in service for around 30 years.
It is not the first time Johnson has expressed enthusiasm for the project. In 2017, he told the Commons that the commissioning of a new £100m yacht would attract “overwhelming support” if private backing to build it could be found.
The Labour shadow treasury chief secretary, Bridget Phillipson, said: “Right now our country faces huge challenges, and there’s no sign the government has a plan for the recovery.
“We want to see public money used for targeted investment in a green economic recovery, resources for our NHS, and supporting families to succeed.
“If this ship is going to be part of a genuine plan for Britain’s future, the government must set out clearly how it will boost trade, jobs and growth in every corner of our country.
“We’d want to see it built in Britain, supporting jobs and skills in shipyards here, and with a real focus on value for money at every stage.”
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