Vessel could be 'trade ambassador'

Campaign to recommission Royal Yacht

Royal Yacht: campaign (photo by Terry Murden)
Royal Yacht: campaign (photo by Terry Murden)

A campaign has been launched (no pun intended) to set the Royal Yacht Britannia free of her anchors and given a second wind as a trade ambassador.

Business leaders and former naval chiefs have thrown their support behind the idea of recommissioning the ship and using it to drum up business for post-Brexit Britain.

The vessel is currently thriving as a tourist attraction in the port of Leith where the locals appear to be implacably opposed to any idea of seeing her return to the high seas any time soon.

Her future, however, is now subject to a plan gathering support in high places. Lord West, a former First Sea Lord, told The Daily Telegraph that he saw at first-hand how the vessel generated trade deals worth billions of pounds when he sailed her to Asia shortly before she was taken out of service.

The vessel was decommissioned in 1997 under Tony Blair’s government, much to the regret of those (including The Queen herself) who valued her role in helping to secure billions of pounds of trade deals.

Lord West, a Labour peer said: “Getting rid of the Royal Yacht was a terrible error. It was a wonderful icon of Britishness. I took her on her last deployment to the Far East … £2.75bn worth of contracts were signed on board for British goods.”

Boris Johnson ITV EU debateBoris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary (right), is also keen on the revival plan which is being headed by Tory MP Jake Berry, who will lead a parliamentary debate next month entitled “Reintroduction of the Royal Yacht Britannia for the purpose of international trade.”

Among other options being proposed is the commissioning of a new ship. Matthew Hood, a former Ministry of Defence employee, worked on plans for a replacement for the Britannia in the 1990s that was ditched after Labour took power in 1997.

Britannia was the 66th Royal Yacht and there is a long history of entertaining political and business leaders, often hosted by members of the Royal Family.

Prising her out of Leith, where it attracts 300,000 visitors, may prove the most challenging of negotiations, although there seems to be some muddled thinking among those who have publicly stated their opposition to removing the vessel.

Fraser Parkinson, a city guide and administrator of the Spirit of Leithers website, said: “It’s a sure sign that business and public ratings are bad when Boris and the Telegraph come up with a plan featuring an ex royal yacht and industrialists with bulging wallets all floating on a sea of ‘outdated nostalgia’.”

Having written off Britannia’s chances of winning business in the modern world he then goes to describe her as a “beacon shining over Leith’s hard fought economic revival, it’s a huge bonus to the local economy”, surely contradicting his early comment.

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