Jersey: Royal Navy gunboats are not 'well equipped' says Colonel
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The ship, a successor to the Royal Yacht Britannia, will be used by the Royal Family, the Prime Minister of the day, diplomats and trade delegations to showcase British exports and make the most of trading opportunities. The announcement by Boris Johnson is a victory for campaigners who mourned the loss of the Royal Yacht in 1997. Its successor is intended to drive a “renaissance” in home shipbuilding. The Prime Minister 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.”
Mr Johnson added: “Every aspect of the ship, from its build to the businesses it showcases on board, will represent and promote the best of British – a clear and powerful symbol of our commitment to be an active player on the world stage.”
A Whitehall source told the Sunday Express the vessel is likely to be called HMS Duke of Edinburgh, since it will not be referred to as a yacht as Britannia was.
“The source said the name “needs to be confirmed by the Queen but the intention is to name it after the late Duke”.
Prince Philip was involved in the design of Britannia, having served as a Navy officer in the Second World War and until the Queen acceded to the throne.
The new ship will also be available for royal duties.
A Downing Street source said: “As with other UK Government assets such as RAF aircraft, the Royal Family will be able to use the flagship when carrying out official duties at the request of the Government.”
Construction might start as soon as next year, with a launch within four years.
The ship will be crewed by the Navy and is expected to last three decades.
Former trade minister Lord Digby Jones, who last year told the Sunday Express the UK needed a replacement for HMY Britannia “the quicker” the better, said it would boost morale and prosperity.
He added: “How brilliant. I’m delighted for all the young people who will get jobs through this. Secondly, I’m delighted for the men and women who work in all the businesses in Britain that will benefit from the orders obtained around the world.
“Thirdly, I’m absolutely delighted just for the nation.When I was trade minister, [there were so many] politicians and senior public figures in so many countries who said, ‘Whatever happened to the Royal Yacht? Why don’t you still use it?'” Lord Jones dismissed claims the money could be better spent elsewhere.
He said: “This is not a cost at all. This is an investment. And it is something which will deliver payback thousands of times over its life. It’s not a holiday vessel. It is a work vessel. It is an asset to the country.”
HMY Britannia, launched in April 1953, sailed more than one million miles during 44 years of service, calling at more than 600 ports in 135 countries.
The new flagship will also be a major platform to celebrate British design, engineering and green technology.
It is expected that when the Prime Minister makes an overseas trip on the ship it would host talks between UK and local businesses. It is also likely to be used for trade fairs, summits and negotiations.
Labour MP Barry Gardiner, who was shadow international trade secretary under Jeremy Corbyn, backed the project.
He said: “We need to be putting ourselves out there and presenting ourselves to the world… [Britannia] was something that did help us with our trade. As long as it’s used for the right purpose in the right way and is not disproportionately expensive then I think it’s a very good idea.”
But SNP MP Pete Wishart claimed the project could cost £200million: “This is not just another example of how Boris Johnson’s Tories have their priorities all wrong, it is an attempt to distract the public from the sleaze and chaos atWestminster.
“And it is more proof that Boris Johnson and the UK Government are completely out of touch with the people of Scotland and why they shouldn’t be the ones making decisions about the future of Scotland.”
The Government said the ship’s role will be “distinct from any previous national flagship”. Costs for its build and operation will be confirmed when a competitive tendering process is completed. News of the scheme comes as formal trade talks with India open and Liz Truss, the international trade secretary, closes in on a lucrative deal with Australia.
Meanwhile, a report warned that Britain will need to step up efforts to take on China’s “neo-colonialism” in sub-Saharan Africa – a threat to Britain striking deals there.
John Longworth, chairman of the Independent Business Network, said: “The UK’s withdrawal from the EU marks the start of a new era of trade agreements.
“During this critical turning point, it is essential that the UK not only establishes trade relations with developed economies but with emerging markets too.
“A region that cannot be overlooked is sub-Saharan Africa which, in spite of China’s malign influence, still offers immense trading potential.”
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