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Japan's foreign minister tells Johnson and Hunt to avoid no-deal Brexit

Tom Belger
Finance and policy reporter
Boris Johnson, UK foreign secretary with his Japanese counterpart Taro Kono. Photo: AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth

Japan’s foreign minister has warned the UK could lose Japanese investment if the next prime minister takes Britain out of the EU without a deal.

Taro Kono issued a stark plea to Tory leadership contenders Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt to avoid a no-deal Brexit that could put Japanese car firms’ survival in the UK at risk.

“Please, no no-deal Brexit,” Kono told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, in the latest of a string of interventions in the Brexit debate by the Japanese government.

Japan is one of the biggest investors in the UK economy, with its car firms Nissan, Toyota and Honda building around half of the cars manufactured in Britain last year.

READ MORE: UK firms warn no-deal Brexit posturing is already costing jobs

Kono said Britain could see less investment from Japan if the next UK prime minister failed to protect free UK access to the EU market.

He said a no-deal Brexit could lead to new physical customs checks at borders, putting the car industry’s ‘just-in-time’ production at risk.

"Some companies are already starting to move their operations to other places in Europe," he said.

Both Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt have said they are prepared to take Britain out of the EU without a deal.

Workers at Nissan's plant in Sunderland. Photo: Press Association

Japanese firms employ an estimated 150,000 people in Britain, while trade between the UK and Japan was worth around £28bn last year.

UK prime minister Theresa May called the two countries “natural partners” as she welcomed her Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe to the UK earlier this year.

Abe used the visit to warn the “whole world” wanted Britain to avoid a no-deal outcome, and pledged “total support” for the agreement reached by May with Brussels.

The Japanese foreign ministry also released a 15-page document in the year of the referendum in 2016 setting out how the UK economy could be damaged if Britain crashed out of the EU single market.