Japan’s foreign minister has told the BBC that he is “very concerned” about the implications of a no-deal Brexit.
Taro Kono told the Today Programme that the 1,000 Japanese companies operating in the UK were concerned about the “negative impact” on their operations if the UK leaves the EU without a deal.
He said he had urged Conservative leadership contenders Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt to avoid a no-deal Brexit.
Trade talks could not take place until the UK leaves the EU, he added.
Mr Kono said that whenever he had meetings with Mr Hunt, the UK’s foreign minister, and his predecessor Mr Johnson, one of the major issues was “please no no-deal Brexit”.
Speaking to the BBC ahead of the up-coming G20 meeting in Osaka, he said Japan did not want to disrupt economic relations with the UK.
“So we’ve been asking the UK government, let the Japanese companies know what they can expect, and things should happen smoothly without any disruption”.
“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,” he said.
Saying he knew Mr Johnson and Mr Hunt “very well”, he said: “I’ve been working with them. 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”.
Carmakers were worried about the free-flow of parts to the UK from the EU if there was a no-deal Brexit, he said.
“Right now they 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,” he said.
“And many companies are worried about [the] implications because they don’t know what’s going to happen,” he said, so they have started to move their operations to other places in Europe.
He also cast doubt on the ability of the UK to sign a new trade deal with Japan – or other nations – before leaving the EU on 31 October.
The UK has said it wants to join the trade pact known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership. He said that while this was possible, negotiations could not take place until the UK had left the EU.
While Japan would be happy to negotiate a new trade deal with the UK, “I think you have get out of the EU first before you can negotiate”.
Asked if a free trade deal with Japan could be agreed by 31 October, he said: “I don’t think so”.
There would be “some kind of gap” before a deal could be ratified.
But he would like to strengthen the relationship between the two countries, he said.
The president of the largest Japanese company in the UK, Fujitsu, also told the BBC that the Brexit-related uncertainty was difficult for this company.
Takahito Tokita, who has worked for Fujitsu in London, said contingency plans had been made.
But when asked if the company – which employs 10,000 in the UK – could move its offices of out the UK, he said: “No, definitely no”.