News | Published June 29 2019

Japan’s foreign minister concerned over no-deal Brexit

Japan’s foreign minister Taro Kono told the BBC that he is “very concerned” over the prospect of a no-deal Brexit and the consequences for Japanese businesses in the UK.

Speaking to the BBC’s Today programme ahead of the G20 summit in Osaka, Kono said that the 1,000 plus Japanese businesses operating in the UK were worried about a “negative impact” on their operations if a withdrawal agreement with the EU is not reached.

He said: “We have been asking the UK government to let the Japanese companies know what they can expect, and things should then happen smoothly without any disruption.

“There are over 1,000 Japanese companies operating in the UK so we are very concerned with this no-deal Brexit. That would have a very negative impact on their operations”.

Issues of concern include the free movement of essential parts from the EU for Japanese businesses in the car industry, which has seen some firms relocate operations from the UK to Europe.

Kono told the BBC: "Right now they [Japanese firms] have very smooth operations. 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.

“Many companies are worried about the implications because they don’t know what’s going to happen”.

Kono also warned that trade talks between Japan and the UK could not begin until Brexit has been finalised.

While the UK’s post-Brexit ambition to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership for trade is possible, Kono said: “I think you have to get out of the EU first before you can negotiate [a trade agreement]”.

Yet, Kono did reveal that Japan would be prepared to negotiate a new free trade deal with the UK to help strengthen the relationship between the two nations.

However, such a deal is unlikely to be finalised by October 31, the deadline for the UK to leave the EU, according to Kono.

He said that there would be “some kind of gap” in time before any new trade deal between the UK and Japan could be struck.

Kono has also called upon the prime ministerial candidates Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt to rule out a no-deal departure.

On his relationship with the two Conservative leadership candidates, Kono said: “I have been working with [both of] them. So whoever wins, whoever becomes a new leader for the UK, [I do hope] they would consider those foreign companies operating in the United Kingdom and take good care of it”.

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Authored by

Scott Challinor
Business Editor
June 29 2019

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