Defence Secretary Ben Wallace is using a national security exemption in World Trade Organisation rules to ensure the £250million replacement for Royal yacht Britannia is built in Britain
Boris Johnson’s national flagship to showcase “the best of British” could end up being designed by foreigners.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace is using a national security exemption in World Trade Organisation rules to ensure the £250million replacement for Royal yacht Britannia is built in Britain.
But the contract for her design will go out to international competition in two weeks.
Labour says there are better uses for the money than building a boat for the PM’s overseas trips.
But they add if it must go ahead then Mr Wallace should also use the national security loophole to employ a British designer.
International Trade Secretary Emily Thornberry said: “It makes no sense to follow international rules when it comes to the design of their mega-yacht, but claim an exemption when it comes to its construction.
“If the Government is determined to spend a quarter of a billion pounds on a yacht rather than supporting communities then the very least they need to do is ensure every penny is spent here in the UK.”
WTO exemption rules usually apply to the construction of warships which the MoD stresses the new vessel is not although it will be crewed by the Navy.
Mr Wallace will announce which British shipyard gets to build the new boat in April next year.
The vessel will be used for international trade shows and negotiations – docking in countries the PM is visiting so he can hold talks aboard.
It will be the UK’s first national flagship since HMY Britannia was scrapped by Labour in 1997.
The MoD said the ship will be “a tangible manifestation of British ingenuity” – even if she’s designed overseas.
Mr Wallace said:”The MoD will conduct an international competition for the design in order to ensure we can procure a world-class design and British companies will be encouraged to participate.”
But former Labour Defence minister Kevan Jones said: “It’ll be an ongoiing cost for the Royal Navy for the next 30 years. They’re not happy about it.”
The name of the new ship has yet to be decided but favoiurite is the Duke of Edinburgh in honour of Prince Philip who died in April.
Mr Johnson decided a luxury yacht was needed to boost British trade after Brexit.
He said: “Every aspect of the ship will represent and promote the best of British.”
Britannia travelled more than one million miles in its 44 years of service. It is now a tourist attraction in Edinburgh.