Japanese car firms ready to leave Britain if EU free trade affected by Brexit, says ambassador
Japanese motor firms based in Britain are prepared to leave if free trade to the EU after Brexit is affected, the country’s ambassador has warned.
Koji Tsuruoka said Nissan, Toyota and Honda were “watching very closely” the Brexit negotiations and admitted there were fears over their future “profitability”.
His comments came after a meeting with Theresa May in Downing Street, where he was joined by bosses from the firms as well as Hitachi and Mitsubishi.
Speaking after the meeting Mr Tsuruoka said: “The question is whether the arrangements that will be reached between the two sides will allow the Japanese companies to continue to operate in the UK.
“If there is no profitability of continuing operation in [the] UK… no private company can continue operations. It is as simple as that. This is all high stakes that I think all of us need to keep in mind.”
Mr Tsuruoka refused to answer "hypothetical" questions about future UK customs relations with the EU, following the Government's move to “categorically” rule out staying in a customs union with the bloc.
But he added that he "expected that manufacturing business in particular will continue to have free access to the European market".
Mr Tsuruoka said Japanese companies would like to continue their "successful" operations in the UK, but added they and wanted to "see clarity and certainty".
A Downing Street spokesperson said the country’s business leaders "spoke of their desire to continue trading with and investing in the UK".
They added that they “expressed their appreciation for the opportunity for constructive dialogue with the Government” while agreeing the importance of reaching an implementation period and then trading relationship with the EU.
Labour MP Phil Wilson, a supporter of the pro-EU Open Britain campaign, said failure to reach a satisfactory deal with the EU could affect tens of thousands of UK jobs.
"If the Government doesn't get its act together soon, we could be saying 'Sayonara' to Japanese businesses based in the UK,” he said.
"Japanese companies have invested in this country, supporting more than 160,000 jobs, largely on the basis that it provides a bridge into the wider European market.
"If that bridge collapses, their investment will dry up."