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Taxpayers are forking out nearly £1m to give Boris Johnson’s military grey RAF VIP plane a red, white and blue makeover.
Downing Street confirmed that the “pre-planned” Union flag-inspired repainting will cost “around £900,000”, including the design that promotes the UK without compromising the plane’s military role.
“At every stage we have worked to ensure value for money for the UK taxpayer,” the prime minister’s official spokesperson said.
Johnson has previously questioned why the plane is grey, and said as foreign secretary that he would like to have a “Brexit plane” to help him travel the world and promote the government’s vision of global Britain.
He also complained in 2018 that the jet, which is shared by the prime minister, senior cabinet members and the royal family, “never seems to be available”.
The prime minister’s official spokesperson said the RAF Voyager was being repainted so it can “better represent the UK around the world with national branding, similar to many other leaders’ planes”.
Despite the grey camouflage being repainted, the jet will retain its ability to carry out military air-to-air refuelling of other RAF aircraft when it is not being used by the government or the royal family, the spokesperson insisted.
He could not say who came up with the idea of a makeover for the plane but confirmed Johnson “approved the decision”.
The fee “incorporates the cost of creating a design that will promote the UK around the world without compromising the plane’s vital military role”, the spokesperson said.
The plane is currently being painted in Cambridgeshire. No.10 stressed that all work is happening in the UK and would benefit suppliers in this country.
Labour’s shadow Northern Ireland secretary Louise Haigh said: “When families across the country are worried about their jobs, health and the education of their children, they will rightly question the government’s priorities when they are spending almost a million pounds redecorating a plane which in all likelihood has been grounded for months because of the coronavirus.”