Tuesday, July 16

The waves bring back after Brexit



Boris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary, is understood to be considering a detailed proposal to return the yacht to the seas. Sources said he sees it as a great symbol of global Britain.

The Royal Yacht Britannia should be recommissioned and used to secure trade deals after the Brexit vote, dozens of MPs, former ministers and a senior former aide to the Queen say.

The politicians back a campaign and call for the return of the incredible vessel, which was put out of service in 1997 by Tony Blair’s government.

Lord Jones of Birmingham, a trade minister in Gordon Brown’s Government and former director general of the CBI, told the Telegraph: When I was Trade Minister I was amazed how many overseas contacts asked me why we ever got rid of Britannia.

It was such a useful weapon in the armoury when fighting for export orders and inward investment.

MPs in favour of the plans believe it would boost links with the Commonwealth.

Between 1991 and 1995, it is estimated that the yacht helped secure £3billion of trade deals as world leaders and business figures clamored to attend receptions hosted on the vessel.

Three former trade ministers have backed the move, while around 20 backbenchers are said to have given their initial support.

Richard Needham, who was minister of trade from 1992 and 1995 and led four overseas trade missions on the yacht, said: Britannia was an incredible benefit in terms of trade promotion.

It was wonderful, absolutely wonderful. I remember having her in Cape Town, the floodlighting of Table Top mountain behind her, the band of the royal marines.

Lord Heseltine, who as President of the Board of Trade from 1992 to 1995 fought hard against the decision to axe Britannia, said: We made a great mistake in not replacing Britannia in the 1990s. That remains my view.

She was a symbol of many things about this country we have now not got. It was the wrong decision but I full understood the pressures on the Government of which I was a member. In the internal debate I wanted to replace it.

Calls for the recommissioning follow the vote to leave the EU, with Britain soon having to secure its own trade deals and forge a new relationship with the rest of the world.

Jake Berry, the Tory MP for Rossendale and Darwen, is behind the plan and has secured a debate in Parliament next month to gain support.

Two options are being considered  recommissioning the original yacht, which is currently berthed in Edinburgh as a tourist attraction, or ordering a replica.

Given concerns over the costs of the venture to the taxpayer, Mr Berry is looking into a campaign to raise funds that would not include asking for public money.

Donors from across the Commonwealth would be approached, with a Canadian figure was said to have offered £10m to fund a previous drive for recommissioning.

Dickie Arbiter, a press secretary for the Queen for 12 years, told the Telegraph that recommissioning the Britannia was a good idea” that should be investigated.

He said: All the Royals were fond of it, it was a kind of home for home. It was used from 1954 – that’s a long time. It wasn’t a play thing for the Royals, far from it. It was an operational vehicle.