The government has cancelled its plans to build a Brexit trade yacht with “immediate effect”, the defence secretary has announced.
Speaking in the Commons on Monday Ben Wallace said the competition to construct a national flagship had been “terminated”.
Mr Wallace told MPs the decision had been made so shipbuilders could instead focus on building a new vessel to defend undersea cables from attack.
In May last year Boris Johnson announced a competition to build the ill-fated trade yacht, promising that the vessel would reflect “the UK’s burgeoning status as a great, independent maritime trading nation”.
The prime minister said the project – campaigned for by Tory-supporting newspapers – would send “clear and powerful symbol of our commitment to be an active player on the world stage”.
It was dubbed a “Brexit yacht” by critics who linked it to the government’s claims it was created a “global Britain” by leaving the EU, while proponents said it would help the UK sign more trade dea.s.
The boat was intended to be a successor to the Royal Yacht Britannia, but was never officially referred to as a Royal Yacht as it did not receive the endorsement of Buckingham Palace. It was reportedly set to cost as much as £200 million.
Mr Wallace told MPs the that he wanted to “accelerate the procurement of the multi-role ocean surveillance ship” or “MRos” to patrol British waters – and linked the cancellation of the yacht to this objective.
He said that in light of the invasion of Ukraine it was “right that we prioritise delivering capabilities which safeguard our national infrastructure”.
“I’m clear that to effectively address the current and future threats we will now invest in MRos ships that protect sensitive defence infrastructure and civil infrastructure to improve our ability to detect threats to the seabed and cables,” he said.
“I have also therefore directed the termination of the National Flagship Competition with immediate effect, to bring forward the first MRos ship in its place. And I shall make further announcements on our continued naval investment in the coming weeks.”
Rishi Sunak was reported to be sceptical of the yacht plan, and the project was last week rumoured to be about to fall prey to the governemnt’s austerity drive. Ministers have been looking to reduce public expenditure after Liz Truss’s disastrous budget damaged the UK’s economic outlook.