The head of Theresa May’s policy forum has said there is a “very real prospect” that the UK will become an “isolated, small, insular, old, ageing economy” after Brexit.
Conservative MP George Freeman said the nightmare vision was one of two potential scenarios which could develop after withdrawal from the EU.
Britain faces a “generation-defining choice” over whether it goes down this path or becomes “a happy, prosperous, purposeful nation again” by unleashing a postBrexit revolution in entrepreneurship and innovation, he said. Opponents of a hard Brexit seized upon his comments as a warning of what could go wrong with Brexit.
But Mr Freeman, the chairman of the Conservative Policy Forum, insisted he was merely highlighting the fact Britain must choose between “managed decline or national renewal”.
Speaking to the IPPR think tank, the MP said that when his children asked him about what would happen after Brexit, he told them to imagine themselves looking back from 20 years in the future.
Viewed from there, Brexit could end up being seen as “the moment we finally failed and became a second or third tier nation”, he suggested. But he also laid out an alternative future in which “we unleashed a revolution of entrepreneurship and innovation, we connected with emerging markets, we became a crucible of the technologies, innovative products and services that allowed the world to develop at a pace never hitherto seen”.