Monitoring Desk (BBC NEWS): The “entire world” expects the UK to avoid a no-deal Brexit, Japan’s prime minister has claimed.
Speaking at a joint press conference with Theresa May, Shinzo Abe pledged his “total support” to the withdrawal agreement she has negotiated, which MPs will vote on next Tuesday.
Mrs May said leaving the EU provided “an unprecedented opportunity” for the countries to strengthen relations.
It comes as Honda UK announced a six-day post Brexit shut down.
The Japanese-owned car giant said the move was to ensure it could adjust to “all possible outcomes caused by logistics and border issues”.
Mrs May and Mr Abe pledged to build on the trade agreement between Japan and the EU to secure an “ambitious bilateral arrangement” between the two nations after Brexit, as well as to increase investment.
Mr Abe said: “It is the strong will of Japan to further develop this strong partnership with the UK, to invest more into your country and to enjoy further economic growth with the UK.
“That is why we truly hope that a no-deal Brexit will be avoided, and in fact that is the whole wish of the whole world.
“Japan is in total support of the draft withdrawal agreement worked out between the EU and Prime Minister May, which provides for a transition to ensure legal stability for businesses that have invested into this country.”
Mrs May repeated her call to MPs to support her plan, saying: “The only way to avoid no deal is to have a deal and to agree a deal, and the deal that is on the table, the deal that is the deal that the EU has made clear, is the only deal.”
Labour MP Martin Whitfield, a supporter of the Best for Britain campaign for another referendum, said: “It is humiliating for the prime minster to be told to her face that the whole world wants to avoid a no-deal scenario, yet she still refuses to rule it out.
“Countries across the globe are looking at Britain in despair. Japan, like our other allies, understands the folly of a no-deal Brexit. Why doesn’t Theresa May?”
Trade between the UK and Japan hit £28bn last year, and Japanese companies already employ 150,000 people in the UK.
During their meeting in Downing Street, Mrs May and Mr Abe also discussed a number of joint projects, including research around chronic conditions such as dementia and heart failure, the increasing use of big data and artificial intelligence, and environmentally friendly growth.
They also made commitments on security – such as the UK deploying the Royal Navy warship HMS Montrose to the region to enforce sanctions against North Korea.
And as part of a cultural exchange, the National Gallery will send a major exhibition to Japan, including the Sunflowers painting by Vincent Van Gogh.