Tensions were riding high in parliament on Monday, as Nicola Sturgeon announced she’d push for a second Scottish independence referendum and MPs rejected giving themselves a “meaningful” vote on the outcome of Brexit negotiations.
So Boris Johnson decided it was a good time to talk about a boat.
Speaking in the Commons after MPs voted against House of Lords amendments to the bill to trigger Article 50, the Foreign Secretary lauded the “soft power” a new royal yacht could bring post-Brexit Britain.
The last one, Britannia, was scrapped in 1997 by the Labour Government and is now a tourist attraction in Edinburgh.
On the day MPs voted not to guarantee EU nationals’ rights to remain in Britain, Johnson told MPs: “I believe that measures such as a new royal yacht, it is one of a number of measures that I am sure this Government will be able to consider.
“It is my view that it would indeed add greatly to the soft power of this country, a soft power which is already very considerable.”
The issue has energised many Brexiters, many of whom have argued such a boat could help Britain secure its own trade deals after leaving the EU.
The Britannia’s former captain Anthony Morrow told The Daily Telegraph: “These remarks by Boris Johnson show the Government is clearly aware of the significance of a future royal yacht supporting UK business interests at home and abroad.
“This would be greatly welcomed by people up and down the country.”
But Theresa May has said a new royal yacht is not a priority. In October last year, Johnson conceded this was “regretfully” the case.
He chose Monday, the day Sturgeon warned Scotland “should not be taken down a path which it has no control over”, to make the case again for it.
Speaking as the Lords debated passing the bill giving the prime minister legal authority to begin Brexit, Boris said: “The new Britannia should not be a call on the taxpayer, if it can be done privately, I am sure it would attract overwhelming support.”