Boris Johnson promises a new 'national flagship' to promote 'the best of Britain' around the world

A NEW national flagship, the successor to the Royal Yacht Britannia, will promote British trade and industry around the world, Boris Johnson has said.

The vessel – crewed by the Royal Navy – will be used to host trade fairs, ministerial summits and diplomatic talks as the UK seeks to build links and boost exports following Brexit.

It will be the first national flagship since Britannia which was decommissioned in Portsmouth in 1997, but the new vessel will be a ship rather than a luxury yacht.

A name for the vessel has not been announced, but the prime minister has faced pressure from campaigners and Tory MPs to name it after the Duke of Edinburgh, who played a role in designing Britannia.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson sits in the cockpit of an Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II during a visit to HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier in Portsmouth this month. (Photo by Leon Neal - WPA Pool/Getty Images)

The government intends to build the ship in the UK, at a reported cost of up to £200m.

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Mr Johnson 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.

‘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.’

File dated 11/12/97 of The Duke of Edinburgh and The Queen leaving the Royal Yacht Britannia for the last time in Portsmouth. PA photos

The news has been welcomed by cabinet minister and Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt, who has campaigned for a successor to the Royal Yacht.

Speaking to The News, she said: ‘I have long made the case for a 1HMG (the One Government Overseas initiative) maritime capability and created a network of organisations and individuals who wish to support the project. Last week I was in touch with Britannia’s last captain who is really excited about the possibilities. This is not about creating some floating ‘gin-palace’. It could be a highly flexible secure platform for visits and conferences, for research and teaching, for mariner training, for trade and aid as well as our own U.K. resilience and much more.”

The announcement of the vessel comes at the end of a difficult week for the prime minister, which has seen him savaged by former aide Dominic Cummings, who claimed the government was responsible for tens of thousands of needless deaths during the coronavirus pandemic.

He has also faced claims that his past comments about burka-wearing women had contributed to an impression that the Conservative Party is ‘insensitive to Muslim communities’.

And the ministerial sleaze watchdog said he was ‘unwise’ to allow the refurbishment of his Downing Street flat to go ahead without ‘more rigorous regard for how this would be funded’.

Construction of the new ship is expected to begin as soon as 2022 and it will enter service within the next four years.

The tendering process for the design and construction of the vessel will launch shortly, with an emphasis on showcasing British design expertise and the latest innovations in green technology.

The ship is expected to be in service for around 30 years.

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