Japan’s foreign minister has urged the UK to avoid a no-deal Brexit, admitting that Japanese firms are “very concerned” by the possibility.
Taro Kono has warned the Tory leadership hopefuls, Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt, that a failure to agree on a withdrawal bill will have “very negative” implications for the 1,000 Japanese companies operating in the UK.
He also said he knows both of the candidates “very well” having held meetings with both current foreign secretary Hunt and his predecessor, Johnson.
“Whenever we had a meeting, that was one of the major issues – please… no no-deal Brexit,” he told the BBC.
“There are over 1,000 Japanese companies operating in the United Kingdom so we are very concerned with this no-deal Brexit. That would have [a] very negative impact on their operations.
“So whoever wins, whoever becomes a new leader for the UK, [I hope] they would consider those foreign companies operating in the United Kingdom and take good care of it”.
Kono has asked both of the potential Prime Ministers to give clarity over Brexit, with neither of them so far ruling out a no-deal outcome.
He also said that Japan would be open to discussing a free-trade agreement with the UK, but did not believe it would be possible before the current Brexit date of 31 October with negotiations not possible to hold until after the UK leaves the bloc.
Adding he would expect there to be “some kind of gap” in the intermediary.
The foreign minister also claimed that it was Japanese carmakers in particular that were worried about Britain leaving the EU without a deal and the implication for the free flow of parts.
“Right now they have very smooth operations,” he added. “Their stock for each part is only for a few hours. But if there is no-deal Brexit, and if they have to go through actual custom inspection physically, those operations may not be able to continue.
“And many companies are worried about [the] implications because they don’t know what’s going to happen.”