Try to avoid a no-deal Brexit, Japan’s foreign minister urges
Japan’s foreign minister Taro Kono has warned against a no-deal Brexit.
Mr Kono said he had worked with both Jeremy Hunt and Boris Johnson as foreign secretary and had always said “please no no-deal Brexit”.
The minister urged the leadership candidates to “take good care” of the 1,000 Japanese companies operating in the UK when they enter Downing Street.
“We are very concerned with this no-deal Brexit,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. “That would have a very negative impact on their operation.
“Right now, it’s my counterpart Jeremy Hunt and his predecessor Boris Johnson – I know them very well, I have been working with them.
“So, whoever wins and whoever becomes a new leader for the UK would consider those foreign companies operating in the UK and take good care of them.”
Mr Kono said he was particularly worried about car companies relying on just-in-time supply chains, which currently have a “very smooth operation” importing and exporting to central Europe but may grind to a halt with no deal.
“If they have to go through actual customs inspections physically those operations may not be able to continue,” he said.
“Some companies already start moving their operation to other places in Europe…
“Whenever we have had meetings that was one of the major issues – please no no-deal Brexit.”
Mr Kono said he understood the UK was interested in joining the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), whose members include Japan, the US and Australia.
He said: “Considering the relationship between UK and Japan we will be happy to negotiate a new trade deal, but I think you have to get out of the EU first before we can negotiate.”
He said any trade deal would not begin immediately after Brexit and there would be “some kind of gap” where the UK had to trade on World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules.
“We need to pass the treaty through the parliament, so it would take some time,” he said.
“Right now there is going to be some kind of gap between when the UK leaves the EU and we can ratify a new trade deal…
“There is going to be some kind of gap where we have to go back to the WTO rules.”
Mr Kono added Mr Johnson had autographed a copy of his book The Churchill Factor and described him as “so kind” as to drink peach juice from Fukishima, which was hit by a nuclear disaster leading to food import restrictions in the UK.
He praised Mr Hunt’s Japanese language skills and said “he has very good knowledge about Japan and Asia” and that both men were “very good friends of mine”.