THE British Empire is about to “strike back” as it forges global trade deals in the post-Brexit era – this was the bold claim from one of Cumbria’s top Tories.

James Airey said his party’s general election victory would herald a brave new time of “positivity and hope” – but opposition councillors later accused him of “crowing” and branded his reference to the revival of Britain’s former imperial glory “offensive”.

And ramping up his political showboating, the leader of the county council’s Conservative group not only referred to the science fiction classic The Empire Strikes Back, but even borrowed Labour’s own election slogan.

He said: “You can almost feel the new era of positivity and hope, a new clear sense of direction with a new Conservative majority – governing for the many not for the few.

“Even our great county has a new sea of blue in MPS, albeit except from any annoying little yellow stain in South Lakeland.

“We are free from the shackles of the failing bureaucratic anti-democratic nightmare that is the European Union, free to make our own laws and control our own borders and strike new trade deals with our commonwealth friends and the rest of the world.

“The British Empire is about to strike back.”

But Labour councillor Roger John Liddle, who represents Wigton, expressed scepticism that Britain’s exit from the EU would usher in a bright new dawn.

He cited evidence that economic growth was slowing, referring the “likelihood” of a post-Brexit fall in the pound as well as the “uncertainty” surrounding EU tariffs and any future trade deal.

He predicted the end of free movement would affect the country’s labour supply.

Karen Lockney, of Denton Holme, blasted councillor Airey for “crowing” about the Conservative’s increased majority, branding his comments about the British Empire striking back “nonsense” and “frankly offensive”.

“Perhaps you need to look at your party’s draconian austerity measures and take responsibility for the mess we are in,” said Cllr Lockney.