UK to build £200m national flagship to promote British industry abroad

A £200m national flagship will be used to promote British trade and industry around the world, Boris Johnson has said.

The boat will sail across the world and be used to host trade fairs, ministerial summits and diplomatic talks as the UK seeks to build links and boost exports following Brexit, the prime minister added.

The as yet unnamed vessel will be the successor to the Royal Yacht Britannia, which was decommissioned in 1997 - although it will be a ship rather than a luxury yacht.

The prime minister has faced pressure from campaigners and Tory MPs to name the ship, which is set to cost up to £200m, after the Duke of Edinburgh, who played a role in designing Britannia.

The Duke of Edinburgh was Lord High Admiral from 2011 until his death last month, and served in the Royal Navy during the Second World War.

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."

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 over seven hours of testimony given to MPs examining the government's response to COVID-19.

Mr Cummings claimed the government was responsible for tens of thousands of needless deaths and that it did not take coronavirus seriously in the early days of the pandemic.

Mr Johnson 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 in the UK 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.

It will showcase British design and the latest innovations in green technology and be crewed by the Royal Navy.

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

Since being decommissioned in December 1997, HMY Britannia has been berthed at Edinburgh and used as a tourist attraction.

The HMS Queen Elizabeth, an aircraft carrier named after the Queen, was sent on its first major military deployment last week, with the monarch visiting the £3bn vessel beforehand.