Jake Berry: A Royal Yacht would be a great symbol of a newly-independent Britain
There has never been a more important time to consider how Britain projects herself on the world stage, says Jake Berry
On 23 June, the British public voted to leave the European Union. Had the referendum been a general election, 401 of 632 constituencies would have voted to leave giving a leave party a bigger majority than the Blair government in 1997. In voting this way the British people sent a powerful message that it is time for Britain to stand tall in the world again and project its power and influence around the globe as an independent nation.
As our prime minister negotiates our departure from the European Union there has never been a better time to consider how Britain projects herself on the world stage. Image is everything. Recently a group of around 100 MPs made the case to the prime minister that now is the time to commission a new Royal Yacht Britannia as a great symbol of global Britain.
The need for a royal yacht is real. It was illustrated in full colour to us last week when we heard the news that during much of his forthcoming Caribbean tour Prince Harry will live on a tanker ship. As he spends 14 days visiting seven countries on behalf of the Queen, he will spend his nights sleeping on the Royal Fleet Auxiliary Wave Knight.
At any point during this tour, the Wave Knight could be called upon to resume its role in Operation Martillo, an international drug-busting effort across the Caribbean, which will be running while Prince Harry is on board. Had this tour taken place earlier in the month, the prince may have found himself intercepting a $40m cocaine shipment.
During his tour the prince will not be able to invite guests on board – as members of the royal family used to. In contrast, if we commissioned a new Royal Yacht Britannia the prince could rely on the support of the vessel and he could host diplomatic and commercial events during the course of the programme, showcasing the United Kingdom and bringing trade to our shores.
Not only would Britannia be a great symbol for a new global Britain, she could also be a huge economic boost. During her commercially profitable years, Britannia hosted business figures from across the globe for “sea days”, days on which opportunities were discussed, and trade agreements struck.
“Sea days” took place both around the coast of Britain and abroad, and were organised to coincide with an official state visit by Britannia. Between 1991 and 1995 she is estimated to have brought in £3bn of commercial trade deals.
A new Britannia could act as a catalyst for a newly-independent Britain to win new trade deals.
Furthermore this is a great chance to showcase the best of British industry and shipbuilding. Imagine for a second the most exclusive British-made yacht in the world, built in Northern Ireland, with engines from Derby, steel from Wales, and fitted out on the Clyde.
The best part of this campaign has been the volume of support shown by members of the public who have offered to help – some even sending in cheques. Britain believes in a new royal yacht and the £250,000 donated by British businesses within 48 hours of a debate on this subject in Westminster Hall proves that serious support is with us. It would be fantastic if no taxpayer funds were used in this yacht. It would be a new Britannia for a new Britain, funded by the people for the people to support our royal family.
Britain remains the third largest maritime power in the world and we have a unique history and connection with the sea. She deserves a floating royal palace that can be used to host meetings and exhibitions to showcase the best of British business and project our humanitarian role across the globe.
As an island race our relationship with the sea is written into our DNA. As our Queen herself said when launching Britannia on the Clyde in 1953: “My father felt most strongly, as I do, that a yacht was a necessity, and not a luxury for the head of our great British Commonwealth, between whose countries the sea is no barrier but a natural highway.” Now is the time to build on this enthusiasm and make a new Britannia a reality.
Jake Berry is Conservative MP for Rossendale and Darwen