BRITAIN’S economy is stagnating and Brexit will only damage it further, former chancellor Alistair Darling has warned in the Lords.

Lord Darling of Roulanish said the recent Budget forecasts showed that 10 years after the financial crash the economy had still not returned to growth levels seen in the preceding years “and that ought to worry us”.

The “economic prospects that we thought by now would have been getting a lot better appear to be stagnating at best if not deteriorating,” he told peers. “It’s absolute fantasy to believe that if only we were free of the EU at the earliest opportunity somehow things would get better.

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“I would argue that at the very time when the economy has been limping along the last possible thing we need is the biggest disruption to our economic prospects since the Second World War.”

The Labour peer said Brexit talks in Brussels seemed to indicate the Government was contemplating Northern Ireland “would be in the customs union and single market in all but name”. He said if this was so “you begin to ask why on earth are we getting into this mess in the first place” and why other parts of the UK shouldn’t get the same treatment. He said such an “odd” move would “blow apart the entire argument for Brexit”.