Abe Demands U.K. Gives Certainty on Brexit for Japanese Firms

  • Asks her on sidelines of G-20 to ‘enhance predictability’
  • May replies that she recognizes impact of Brexit on world

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told Britain’s Theresa May that companies from his country needed more certainty about Brexit as they considered the future of their investments in hers.

The two leaders met Monday for brief face-to-face talks at the Group of 20 summit in Hangzhou, China. After telling May that he attaches “extreme importance” to relations with the U.K., Abe reminded her of the extent of Japan’s investment there, which is partly dependent on Britain’s access to the European Union’s single market.

Shinzo Abe in Hangzhou.

Photographer: Mark Schiefelbein/Pool/Getty Images

“Prime Minister Abe requested her cooperation to enhance predictability and to continue to secure Japanese companies’ businesses and value chains,” Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement. “In response, Prime Minister May mentioned that she recognizes that the result of the U.K. referendum to leave the EU is having influence on the international community including Japan, and expressed her hope that the Japan-U.K. economic relationships will be maintained and strengthened.”

May’s first international summit since she succeeded David Cameron in July has seen other leaders questioning the wisdom of Brexit and demanding more clarity. U.S. President Barack Obama reiterated on Sunday that he believes the vote to leave the EU was a mistake. The Japanese government has published a 15-page paper setting out the threats to Japanese companies in Britain if exit terms are too tough.

Relocation Threat

The document, directed at both Britain and the EU, warned that firms are considering moving their European headquarters out of the U.K. and said a long period of uncertainty would be damaging.

Back in May, Abe was one of many world leaders to urge Britain to stay in the EU. Carmakers Nissan, Honda and Toyota are among more than 1,300 Japanese companies employing over 140,000 people in Britain. By the end of 2014, Japan had investments in the U.K. valued at 38 billion pounds ($51 billion).

“It is very difficult to imagine that the Japanese companies and the auto companies will be pulling out in totality from the U.K.,” the country’s ambassador, Koji Tsuruoka, told the BBC. “The problem we will have to confront is what is the market we can access outside the U.K.”