Prime minister Boris Johnson has signalled his intention to commission a new national flagship to replace the Royal Yacht Britannia, which was decommissioned 24 years ago.
However Downing Street insisted that the new vessel – which could cost as much as £200m, according to some reports – will have a role that is “distinct” from any of its predecessors and help the UK seize new trading opportunities following Brexit.
In a statement, No.10 said the tendering process for the design and construction of the ship would commence shortly and that it was expected to enter service within the next four years. It added that the government’s intention was to build the ship in the UK to create jobs, help drive a renaissance in the UK’s shipbuilding industry and showcase the best of British engineering around the world.
Johnson said that in addition to its trade-promoting function, the new vessel would play an important role in achieving the UK’s foreign policy and security objectives, including by hosting summits and other diplomatic talks.
“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,” he said.
“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.”
Shadow chief secretary to the Treasury Bridget Phillipson said that at a time when the country faced huge economic challenges there needed to be a “real focus on value for money” at every stage of the vessel’s procurement and construction.
“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,” she said.
Downing street said the new ship would be crewed by the Royal Navy and was expected to be in service for around 30 years. The Royal Yacht Britannia is now a visitor attraction at the Port of Leith.