LONDON – (AP) – Prime Minister Boris Johnson plans to build a national flagship to travel the seas to stimulate British trade and investment. But critics suggest that it is he who is at sea.
Johnson announced his plans over the weekend, saying the ship would be the first of its kind and reflect “Britain’s status as a large, independent maritime trading nation”.
“Every aspect of the ship, from construction to the companies it displays on board, will represent and promote the very best of the British – a clear and powerful symbol of our commitment to be an active player on the world stage,” he said in a statement.
While Johnson didn’t price the flagship, British media reported that it would cost around £ 200 million ($ 233 million).
The project harks back to an earlier golden age when the royal yacht projected the majesty of the Empire when Britannia ruled the waves.
That’s exactly the problem, says Peter Ricketts, retired diplomat and independent member of the House of Lords.
“I think the fact that no other country has a ship like this is because the idea has been out of date for so long and there are more modern ways to show the world the high-tech face of Britain,” he said on Sunday in an interview with the BBC.
Also, Ricketts said if Britain needs a flagship it already has one – the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth. The £ 3 billion ($ 3.5 billion) ship was christened in 2014.
The Independent, an online publication, mocked the proposal and accompanied its story of the announcement with a video of Johnson and an EU official climbing into a rowing boat and paddling around a pond while visiting.
Johnson said the tendering process to build the ship will begin later this year and the ship will be commissioned sometime over the next four years.
The ship, manned by the Royal Navy, could go to international ports in conjunction with visits from the prime minister, providing a venue for international summits and trade shows, Johnson said.
The opposition Labor Party suggested making better use of taxpayers’ money.
“We want public money to be used for targeted investments in green economic recovery, resources for our (National Health Service) and family support to be successful,” said Legislator Bridget Phillipson. “If this ship is to be part of any real plan for the UK’s future, the government must be clear about how it will boost trade, jobs and growth in every corner of our country.”
The last royal yacht, HMS Britannia, was decommissioned in 1997. In her 44 years of service she visited more than 600 ports in 135 countries.
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