JA­PAN PM SHINZO ABE TO MEET MAY

Financial Chronicle - - FRONT PAGE - PAUL SAN­DLE

Ja­pan’s Shinzo Abe is likely to urge Bri­tish PM Theresa May to do ev­ery­thing she can to avoid a disorderly Brexit that some of Ja­pan’s lead­ing com­pa­nies have warned could be a dis­as­ter.

JA­PAN’S Shinzo Abe is likely to urge Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May on Thursday to do ev­ery­thing she can to avoid a disorderly Brexit that some of Ja­pan’s lead­ing com­pa­nies have warned could be a dis­as­ter.

Ja­panese firms have spent more than 46 bil­lion pounds ($59 bil­lion) in Britain, en­cour­aged by suc­ces­sive Bri­tish govern­ments since Mar­garet Thatcher promis­ing them a busi­ness-friendly base from which to trade across Europe.

The fu­ture of Brexit re­mains deeply un­cer­tain - with op­tions rang­ing from a disorderly exit from the EU to an­other mem­ber­ship ref­er­en­dum - be­cause Bri­tish law­mak­ers are ex­pected on Jan. 15 to vote down the deal May struck with the EU in Novem­ber.

Abe wel­comed the deal in Novem­ber and in­vestors fear that if it is de­feated then the world’s fifth largest econ­omy would be plunged into a chaotic no-deal Brexit that would se­verely dis­rupt sup­ply chains.

Speak­ing in the Nether­lands on Wednesday, Abe said he wanted to avoid a no-deal Brexit and “see the in­flu­ence of Brexit to the global econ­omy min­imised.”

“We will con­tinue to work closely with Theresa May to help in whatever way we can in the runup to the (UK par­lia­men­tary) vote” on the exit deal she struck with Brus­sels, Abe said.

UK busi­ness min­is­ter Greg Clark said a no-deal Brexit would be a dis­as­ter and part­ners such as Ja­pan need as­sur­ance that it will be avoided.

Abe and May will dis­cuss the eco­nomic op­por­tu­ni­ties that ex­ist for both na­tions as the UK leaves the Euro­pean Union, Down­ing Street said ahead of the meet­ing.

“The UK and Ja­pan are nat­u­ral part­ners,” May said.

“As the UK pre­pares to leave the EU, we raise our hori­zons to­wards the rest of the world. Our re­la­tion­ship with Ja­pan is stronger than ever, and this visit will en­hance co­op­er­a­tion in a wide range of ar­eas.”

For Abe, how­ever, Britain’s trad­ing re­la­tion­ship with Europe af­ter Brexit will be high on the agenda. He told re­porters be­fore his de­par­ture to Europe that he would con­vey Ja­pan’s po­si­tion on Brexit to May, re­ports said.

When the two met at the G20 meet­ing in Buenos Aires in De­cem­ber, Abe asked for May’s sup­port to avoid a “no deal” and to en­sure trans­parency, pre­dictabil­ity and le­gal sta­bil­ity in the process.

Ja­panese car­mak­ers Nis­san, Toy­ota and Honda build roughly half of Britain’s nearly 1.7 mil­lion cars and have warned about the loss of any free and un­fet­tered trade with the Euro­pean Union af­ter Brexit.

The coun­try’s ambassador to Britain, Koji Tsu­ruoka, is­sued a blunt warn­ing about Brexit in Fe­bru­ary when he said Ja­panese com­pa­nies would have to leave Britain if trade bar­ri­ers made them un­prof­itable.

“If there is no prof­itabil­ity of con­tin­u­ing op­er­a­tions in the UK - not Ja­panese only - then no pri­vate com­pany can con­tinue op­er­a­tions,” he said. “So it is as sim­ple as that.”

Ja­pan's Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe, left, and Dutch Prime Min­is­ter Mark Rutte, right, an­swer ques­tions dur­ing a press con­fer­ence in Rot­ter­dam

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