Boost for Theresa May as Japanese PM says 'whole world' wants to avoid no-deal Brexit
The “whole world” wants to avoid the UK crashing out of the European Union without a trade deal, Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe has said.
In a major boost for Theresa May, the Asian premier insisted his country was “in total support of the draft withdrawal agreement” she struck with Brussels.
It comes as the Prime Minister fights to win backing for her Brexit deal from her warring Conservative MPs and the DUP - which props up her minority government.
According to BBC research, it will be rejected by a whopping 228 votes when comes before the Commons next Tuesday.
But Mr Abe issued a thinly-veiled warning to MPs to back the deal as he heaped praise on Mrs May for her dogged efforts to sell it to her troops.
At a press conference alongside the Prime Minister after talks in Downing Street this afternoon, he said: “The world is watching the UK as it exits the European Union.
“I would like to extend my deepest respect for the strong will and hard work by Theresa for the parliamentary approval of the withdrawal agreement.”
He noted that Japanese businesses had created some 150,000 jobs in the UK through investment, and said Britain was the “gateway to the European market”.
He added: “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 transition to ensure legal stability for businesses that have invested into this country.”
Labour MP Martin Whitfield, speaking on behalf of the anti-Brexit campaign group Best for Britain, said: "It is humiliating for the Prime Minister 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?"
The Prime Minister has consistently said a no-deal Brexit "would be better than a bad deal" - but business Secretary Greg Clark today said a no-deal departure would be a "disaster".
During the visit from Mr Abe, UK and Japanese companies annoucned more than £200m-worth of deals that included firms like Hamleys and Lucozade Ribena Suntory.
TORIES FALL IN LINE
Mrs May was also handed a boost by two Tory backbenchers who revealed they would now vote for her deal after previously vowing to reject it.
Mid Norfolk MP George Freeman and Copeland MP Trudy Harrison both went public with their change of heart.
But she was handed a blow when former MI6 head Sir Richard Dearlove and ex-former chief of the defence staff Lord Guthrie wrote to local Tory chairs to pile pressure on MPs to reject the deal.
They said the blueprint would “threaten the national security of the country in fundamental ways”.