Sir Tony Blair has accused Boris Johnson of lacking a coherent plan for dealing with the changes the country faces as a result of Brexit.
The former prime minister said leaving the EU was one of three major challenges facing the UK, alongside the technological revolution and the transition to net zero, but the Government did not have a proper strategic plan for dealing with any of them.
In an online address, he warned that without a radical shift in policy, the country would see an inexorable decline leading to a future that was “poorer, less prosperous and less powerful”.
“There is a gaping hole in the governing of Britain where new ideas should be,” he said.
“Without a radical shift in policy, we face a steady, inexorable compound decline, similar to the 1960s and 1970s.
“It could be several years before we realise this, but with our present course, we are relegating ourselves to a league which is poorer, less prosperous and less powerful.”
On Brexit, he said the Government’s own forecasts pointed to a long term drop of 4% in national income while the lack of a new regulatory strategy was exacerbating costs for business deepening the “economic hit”.
“We need to decide what our new trade relationship with Europe should be, where we can easily align with European regulation and where, practically, we want to depart from it, and have a coherent idea of where we intend to deepen our European cooperation for the future, in areas like defence, energy, and the environment,” he said.
It needs a plan, into which hard work and thought has gone ... at present, there isn't oneSir Tony Blair
“But it needs a plan, into which hard work and thought has gone. Policy detail. Strategic analysis. At present, there isn’t one.”
At the same time, Sir Tony said, “dramatic” advances in artificial intelligence would affect large swathes of the economy with up to nine million jobs being automated.
While the Government had a “plan of sorts” measured against the scale of the forthcoming it fell far short from “what is necessary”.
Meanwhile moving to net zero carbon emissions would require major changes in planning laws, investment in new nuclear capacity, and a credible strategy for switching homes to low-carbon heating.
“Show me the plan to do this,” he said.
He added: “Not a single thing we need to do, to turn our fortunes around, will come without political pain.
“Our politics show few signs of preparedness to tolerate that pain.”
Sir Tony’s analysis was rejected by Downing Street which said the Government was committed to tackle long-standing issues with “massive” investment in infrastructure and in the NHS to deal with the backlog caused by Covid as well as reforming social care.
“This is a Government that has sought to grasp some of the most difficult, long-standing issues that have faced this country, in some cases for decades,” the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said.