Lord Hammond has admitted there is “no way back” to the EU following Brexit. The Tory peer conceded that the UK would not be able to rejoin on “terms that would be acceptable” to the British public.
But the former chancellor took a swipe at Brexit, claiming the UK will “probably never recover” from the hit to gross domestic product, the measure of national income known as GDP.
Speaking on Tonight with Andrew Marr on LBC, Lord Hammond said: “Brexit has cost us a hit to our GDP that we will probably never recover.
“But there is no way back. It’s not a question of applying to rejoin the European Union, we’d never be able to do that on terms that would be acceptable to the British people.
“So, what we have to now do is decide how we are going to make our way in the world, how we are going to earn our living.
“And we have to start by being blunt about one thing, a lot of the stuff that was talked during the referendum campaign about this great global Britain and how it was going to form trade alliances with the US… was rubbish frankly.”
Pressed on if “global Britain as a concept was rubbish”, Mr Hammond insisted the UK will have to “pedal very, very hard to make our presence felt in the world”.
He said: “I think the concept that we can just turn the clock back to a day when Britain, a medium-sized economy could have a global presence on its own in a world that is in fact dominated by very large power blocks, China, the US, the EU as an economic power bloc, the UK economy is half the size of Japan’s economy.
“How much influence does Japan have around the world, with the greatest respect to the Japanese?
“And the idea that somehow Britain had an automatic right, to just reassert a dominant influence in the world seems to me to be taking us right back to the debate of the 1960s, post-Imperial Britain. Where do we go?
“The truth is, we are, for our size, remarkably good at quite a few things.
“But let’s be realistic about this. And let’s try to leverage those unique attributes that we do have in the UK.
“But we’re going to have to pedal very, very hard to make our presence felt in the world.”
Lord Hammond’s comments come as London Mayor Sadiq Khan is set to criticise the Government’s “denial and avoidance” of the “immense damage” Brexit is doing to the country.
In a speech at London’s Mansion House Government dinner tonight, he will argue for a shift away from the current “unnecessarily hardline version” of Brexit towards greater alignment with Europe.
While Mr Khan’s remarks are aimed at the Tories, they could also be seen as a veiled swipe at Sir Keir Starmer’s stance on Brexit in a sign of Labour divisions.
Despite campaigning for Remain in 2016 and then pushing for a second referendum, the Labour leader has recently taken a hardline stance on Brexit in an apparent bid to win back the northern Red Wall seats lost to the Conservatives in the 2019 general election.