The former BBC heavyweight said the EU could slip from prominence and be replaced by a booming Asian economy. Mr Neil made the prediction in response to a Tweet from Jim Pickard, Chief Political reporter at the Financial Times.
Mr Pickard said the Brexit deal, agreed yesterday after months of wrangling, may silence the EU debate – but only temporarily.
He hinted a debate on the UK rejoining the bloc could one day reemerge when those in power in Britain are replaced by the next generations.
Mr Pickard said: “I suspect the heat may go out of the EU debate in the short and medium term but *not* in 15 or 20 or 30 years when today’s young adults are running the country.”
Mr Neil made short shrift of such a prediction.
He said: “There’s a real danger that the EU will be an economic and technological backwater in 15 years time and today’s young Brits will be doing flourishing business in Hanoi and Djakarta.
“This summer Asian GDP over took the rest of the world put together.”
The clash came hours after Boris Johnson and EU chief Ursula von der Leyen finally agreed a post-Brexit trade deal.
Following months of negotiations, an agreement was finally struck on Christmas Eve between the two sides with the Prime Minister subsequently announcing the UK had “taken back control” of its future.
Frantic last-minute talks led to expected announcements by the two sides being continually delayed throughout Christmas Eve, with one of the biggest sticking points – fishing rights – continuing to hold up the deal.
As the political drama unfolded in London and Brussels after nine months of often bitter negotiations, Mr Johnson signalled the move amounted to a fresh start for the nation.
In a Downing Street press conference, Mr Johnson said the UK had delivered on what was promised in the 2016 Brexit referendum.
The Prime Minister said: “We have taken back control of our laws and our destiny. We have taken back control of every jot and tittle of our regulation in a way that is complete and unfettered.
“From January 1 we are outside the customs union and outside the single market.
“British laws will be made solely by the British Parliament interpreted by British judges sitting in UK courts and the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice will come to an end.”