Since the EU Referendum several Brexiteer Tory MPs, including some of Secretaries of State, have argued that the Government should commission the construction of a new Royal Yacht Yacht Britannia – the former royal yacht of Queen Elizabeth II was in service from 1954 until 1997. Their argument: as the Country leaves the European Union, there has never been a better time to consider how Britain projects itself on the world stage.
Their view, very simplistic in my opinion, is that now is the time to commission a new Royal Yacht Britannia as a new symbol of Global Britain, designed and built domestically to showcase the best of UK shipbuilding and industry. They believe Government Ministers and the Royal Family could host diplomatic and commercial events on the new Royal Yacht, showcasing the United Kingdom and bringing trade to the Country’s shores.
Earlier this year, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson stated: “It is my view that it [the New Britannia] would indeed add greatly to the soft power of this country, a soft power which is already very considerable”. On 20 December 2017, a photo opportunity was called to support the campaign to ‘Bring Back Britannia’ in Westminster Hall.
An estimated £120m will be needed to build a new Royal Yacht and some of the MPs have urged the Government to establish a new national lottery to help pay for the new vessel.
What upsets me and appals me greatly is the fact that all this is happening at a time where the social divide is growing, cuts are killing off our public services and poverty is growing. The Chancellor has indeed announced there will be a £12bn cut in welfare spending by 2020/21. A Public Accounts Committee report has found there were more than 9,000 rough sleepers (up by 134 per cent since 2011) and some 78,000 families living in temporary accommodation (risen by about two-thirds in the last seven years). And the report, by Joseph Rowntree Foundation, has shown that a total of 14 million people in the UK currently live in poverty – more than one in five of the population.
At a time where MPs should be focusing on more pressing and urgent matters, they are focusing on bringing back a yacht -estimated to cost £120m – and, the talk about setting up a new national lottery makes even more appalling and offensive to those who are less fortunate.
Furthermore, the idea that having a yacht sailing the globe trying to lure countries into entering a trade deal is foolish and simplistic to say the very least. I would add it may actually be rather off putting, considering it might bring back of memories of colonial history of which we should not be too proud about.
What this Country needs to succeed, in a post Brexit world, is common sense, compassion and exceptional diplomatic skills, all virtues this current Administration clearly lacks of.