The pharma giant’s chief executive said the firm chose Dublin due to the UK’s tax rates being “discouraging”. The British tax rate for business is 19% but is set to rise to 25% in April.

"AstraZeneca's decision to invest in Ireland, not the UK because our tax rates are too high shows how damaging government tax policy is. High taxes destroy jobs and result in less tax revenue,” said Tory MP Jim Redwood.

Redwood added that new science minister Michelle Donelan "needs to tell the Treasury she cannot do her job with high tax rates and additional taxes sending people and money abroad".

Former British Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: "This decision was completely avoidable. Across life sciences, data, AI, clinical trials & other industries of the future, we are squandering a lead, failing to capitalise on the global success of our vaccine programme.

"This is a massive wake-up call,” he added.

Speaking to broadcasters, Chancellor Hunt said: "We agree with the fundamental case they're making which is that we need our business taxation to be more competitive and we want to bring business taxes down.

"But the only tax cuts we won't consider are ones that are funded by borrowing because they're not a real tax cut. They're just passing on the bill to future generations."

The chief executive of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, Dr. Richard Tobett, told BBC Radio 4: "There are more stories about losing investment, like the one we've seen with AstraZeneca, than the positive noise stories coming in, and we really have to turn that around."

"The agreement we have with the NHS - that has got to the point where companies are now paying more than a quarter of their revenues - not profit but revenues - back to the government.

"That is vastly in excess of anything the industry pays anywhere else in the world and we have to get to the point where the UK is able to compete for investment on a level playing field, and we are not there yet."