The foreign secretary, who is regarded as a contender to succeed Theresa May as prime minister, said he is a “big believer” in flying the flag for Britain overseas but also acknowledged there are other ways of projecting the UK’s “national self-confidence”.
His predecessor Boris Johnson first floated the idea of a “Brexit plane” during a trip to South America last year, when he complained that the RAF Voyager jet – shared with the prime minister and the royal family – “never seems to be available”.
Pressed on the idea during a week-long trip to Africa, Mr Hunt said: “I think we’ve got other priorities that we would focus on long ahead of that, but what’s important is the foreign secretary is out and about.
“I’m a big believer in flying the flag for Britain and projecting our national self-confidence. But I think real self-confidence comes from getting the fundamentals right.
“And so, attractive though it is to have a royal yacht or a plane for the foreign secretary or whatever else, in the end much more important is that currently, despite all the predictions, the British economy is generating 1,000 jobs every single day.”
But the move was criticised by anti-Brexit campaigners, who said Mr Hunt should be focused on solving the Brexit crisis rather than his “job perks”.
Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran, who supports the Best for Britain campaign, said: “All this talk about a royal plane shows the foreign secretary has his head in the clouds.
“We’re in the midst of a national crisis, with thousands of businesses, and consequently, jobs at risk.
“The utter shambles that Hunt has been so intimately involved in should be occupying all of his head space, not the chance of more job perks.”
Meanwhile, Mr Hunt also expressed his desire to “reset” the UK’s links with Africa and move away from a relationship where the “main motives” are aid budgets.
He said: “Our TV screens talk about the cyclones, the famines, the terrorism – but actually, what you see is skyscrapers, tech parks, young entrepreneurs, who are all part of a different narrative which, for much of Africa, is Africa’s future.
“Africa has got the capitalist bug in the last 20 years since I started coming here and they look at Britain and they want Britain to be part of Africa.”