POLITICS

Theresa May Torpedoes Boris-Backed Brexit Plan To Recommission Royal Yacht Britannia

'Not on the agenda'

19/09/2016 12:19 | Updated 19 September 2016

Theresa May has torpedoed a Boris Johnson-backed plan to recommission the Royal Yacht Britannia to boost trade post-Brexit.

The Foreign Secretary had offered tentative support for the idea of refitting the ship, which was axed by Tony Blair in 1997 to the dismay of many traditionalist Tories.

Backers of Britannia, which is in currently in a dock in Scotland, say it could help raise billions in overseas trade as a ‘floating embassy’ touring the globe to push exports to an EU-free UK.

The Daily Telegraph launched a campaign, led by Tory backbencher Jake Berry and endorsed by Johnson, for the return of the Royal Yacht’s overseas duties.

Nick Ansell/PA Wire
Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson

But today No.10 killed off the idea with a blunt assessment that it was “not on the agenda”, suggesting no taxpayers’ cash would be spent on it.

“What we are trying to do as a Government is to forge an ambitious plan to exploit the opportunities that leaving the EU represents,” a No.10 spokesman said.

“The ambition is to be a global leader on free trade. There are a number of ways we can go about doing that, but the recommissioning of the Britannia is not on the agenda for that.”

Last week FCO sources told the Sun that they were looking into the plan, and a friend of Mr Johnson said: “Boris is certainly intrigued by the idea Jake has floated. Britannia is a great symbol of global Britain.”

Berry claimed that upto £3bn in trade deals were signed between 1991 and 1995 off the back of the Royal Yacht’s trips overseas, and backers suggest that private donations could help recommission it.

Georges De Keerle via Getty Images
Britannia in its heyday for Charles and Diana's tour of Italy in 1985

Britannia is currently moored in the Port of Leith, Scotland and has become a tourist attraction, after 40 years of service to the Royal Family.

It is part of the National Historic Fleet and cared for by the Royal Yacht Britannia Trust.

Former Sea Lord and Labour minister Lord West said this weekend that the vessel should never have been scrapped.

“Getting rid of the Royal Yacht was a terrible error. It was a wonderful icon of Britishness. I took her on her last deployment to the Far East … £2.75bn worth of contracts were signed on board for British goods,” he said.

But critics say that the plan was misconceived, given the cost of refitting the ship and the fact that most trade is conducted via jet travel.

Plenty of Brexit-sceptics ridiculed the idea on Twitter

But the plan still had its fans.

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