As Tory MPs beginning meetings to form a Parliamentary group to campaign for replacement of the Royal Yacht Britannia, comments made by the Duke of Edinburgh five years ago suggest he would happily back the plans. The comments contradict the official line from government ministers and Number 10 aides who have maintained that the reason they’re not on board with the idea is because the royals are not interested in replacing Britannia.
The comments came about as a part of a conversation between the Duke and a guest at an official lunch. Prince Philip asked how the person felt about the decommissioned royal yacht and the response was that the yacht should be used by the royal family but also to host dignitaries and facilitate business deals. Prince Philip was said to have heartily agreed that this was ‘a most wonderful idea’ and that it could be used for so much training, so many apprenticeships…everything from catering to seamanship, from engineering – everything that goes on a ship.’
This type of training use would allow for the yacht to receive funding from a variety of government departments including the Ministry of Defence and the departments of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.
The ‘Britannia Board’ campaign group will be made up of former defence minister Sir Gerald Howarth, chairman of the backbencg1922 Committee Graham Brady and Boris Johnson’s former aide, Jack Berry. They are backed by up to 100 Tory MPs.
Mr Berry spoke to British newspaper The Telegraph, saying: ‘the group will come together on a cross-party basis to deliver a royal yacht for the nation. The enthusiasm shown by MPs, the public and ministers will form the Britannia board so the work of fundraising and delivering the royal yacht can be spread across MPs and the House of Lords.’
Of Prince Philip’s comments, Mr Berry said: ‘These comments show that the royal family recognises the value of a new yacht.’
Downing Street has stated that a new yacht is ‘not a priority’.
When asked for comment, a Buckingham Palace spokesperson reasserted that ‘We never confirm or comment on anonymously sourced reports on private conversations.’