Theresa May 'banned' Boris Johnson from backing Royal Yacht Britannia relaunch in conference speech

Posted On: 
12th October 2016

Theresa May banned Boris Johnson from backing a relaunch of the Royal Yacht Britannia in his Conservative conference speech, a report has said.

Boris Johnson had his conference speech amended by Theresa May
PA Images

According to The Sun the Foreign Secretary wanted to publicly endorse plans to make the vessel a floating trade embassy, but the key line was removed from his speech.

A Tory source told the paper: “He was overruled by the PM, who is fighting the idea.”

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Downing Street has already slapped down Mr Johnson over the idea once after he expressed support for the plan.

It came as calls for the Royal Yacht Britannia to be brought back into service to help secure trade deals after Brexit were scuppered by the Government.

During a debate yesterday International Trade Minister Mark Garnier told MPs the plan was "not something the Government is considering at all".

He also dismissed suggestions that taxpayers' cash could be used to build a replacement for the Royal Yacht, which has acted as a tourist attraction in Edinburgh since it was decommissioned in 1997.

"We have to be clear that the Government has no plans to commission a new Royal Yacht and as such it is very unlikely indeed that the Government would use taxpayers' money to fund a Royal commission or an investigation into whether we could commission a new Royal Yacht," he said.

However, he did say the Government would be "very keen" to see a business plan for a new vessel, leaving open the slim possibility that it could be privately-funded.

The minister was responding to calls by more than 100 Tory MPs, led by Jake Berry, for the Royal Yacht Britannia to be brought back into service.

Mr Berry, the MP for Rossendale and Darwen, told a Westminster Hall debate that post-Brexit, the ship could tour the high seas helping to secure multi-billion pound deals with other countries, as it often did when it was in service.

He added: "The Government should match the optimism of its own people. I want to be part of a government that is brave enough to say a new Royal Yacht should play its part in making Britain the leading free trade economy in the world."

Former defence minister Sir Gerald Howarth said it was "one of the darkest moments of my life" when the Royal Yacht was decommissioned.

He added: "We are spending £12bn a year on overseas aid. A new Royal Yacht at a modest £120m would deliver for the British people a statement of our intent post-Brexit."

But Shadow International Trade Secretary, Barry Gardiner, dismissed the calls for the vessel to be re-commissioned.

He said: "The idea that we could relaunch an ancient yacht as a beacon of British innovation and enterprise is entirely symptomatic of the nostalgic nonsense that has infected this government's approach to the new trading relationship that we must develop in a post referendum world once the UK leaves the EU.

"This debate sends a signal to the rest of the world that we still see the best of Britain behind us."

Theresa May slapped down Boris Johnson last month after he suggested bringing the yacht back was a good idea.

A Downing Street spokesman said: "What we are trying to do as a government is forge an ambitious plan to exploit the opportunity that leaving the EU represents.

"As far as I'm aware, the re-commissioning of the Britannia is not on the agenda for that."

The ship, which entered service in 1954, previously hosted trade talks which are said to have brought in billions of pounds to the economy.