'Everyone is seriously concerned': 2 years after its viral Brexit letter, Japan is back with another dire warning on leaving the EU

  • “Everyone is seriously concerned,” Hiroaki Nakanishi, the head of Japan’s biggest business lobby has warned on Brexit.
  • Nakanishi said that Japanese businesses, as well as other foreign firms, urgently need clarity over the shape of Brexit.
  • He also said Japanese businesses are particularly frustrated by the lack of a united position fr om the government on Brexit.
  • Japanese firms, including automakers Nissan, Toyota, and Honda, employ thousands of staff in the UK.
  • The intervention from Japanese business comes almost two years on from the country’s viral Brexit letter to the UK.

Japanese businesses with a collective UK workforce of hundreds of thousands of staff are once again sounding the alarm on their fears of widespread economic damage post-Brexit, unless clarity is achieved by Prime Minister Theresa May and her government as soon as possible.

Two years on from the famous viral letter to the British government from the Japan Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Japanese businesses are once again raising the alarm about the impending negatives of Brexit, which would impact not only their businesses, but also the wider UK economy.

“We just can’t do anything. Everyone is seriously concerned,” Hiroaki Nakanishi, chairman of Keidanren, the Japanese business federation, said in an interview with the Financial Times published on Tuesday.

Nakanishi told the FT that Japanese businesses operating in the EU are frustrated – like many UK businesses – by the lack of any real clarity over what sort of Brexit the UK will actually achieve when the Article 50 period runs out in March next yar. “Various scenarios get discussed, from no Brexit to plunging into Brexit without any kind of deal at all. We’re now in a situation where we have to consider what to do in all of them,” Nakanishi added.

Major Japanese firms, including automakers Nissan, Toyota, and Honda, all have substantial footprints in the UK, manufacturing thousands of cars here every year. Nissan, for instance, employs over 7,000 people, most of whom are concentrated in the firm’s plant in the north east city of Sunderland.

Nissan was subject to a great deal of attention in the months after the Brexit vote, after it initially threatened to leave the UK altogether in the aftermath of the Brexit vote. After aggressive lobbying from the government, the firm reversed course. CEO Carlos Ghosn, however, in June warned of a possible “slow decline” of Nissan’s UK business after Brexit.

Japanese businesses are particularly frustrated, Nakanishi said, by the lack of a united position from the government on Brexit.

“When you talk to the UK government, they say something a bit different depending on who is speaking,” he said, reflecting the differences between hardline Brexiteers such as Liam Fox, and more moderate colleagues like the anti-Brexit chancellor, Philip Hammond.

In his interview with the FT, Nakanishi also called on the government to maintain membership of the customs union, in order to keep the UK’s “current economic environment as much as possible.”

“Please keep the current economic environment as much as possible, including the customs union,” he said.

“If you don’t then it will clearly hinder economic activity in the UK.”

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