The U.K. Ambassador to Japan, Paul Madden, delivered a speech yesterday on how Brexit is going to shape the relationship between the U.K. and Japan. Madden reassured the audience, comprising mainly of the media and members of the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan, that Brexit has not deterred Japanese companies from investing in the U.K. Madden cited the U.K’s favorable business environment and the strength of British universities as being two key factors that make the Japanese government and Japanese companies firmly committed to investing in the U.K.
The Ambassador also said that the U.K. looks forward to the 2019 Rugby World Cup and the 2020 Olympic games and mentioned that the U.K’s track record of hosting successful world events such as the London 2012 Olympics will put the U.K. in a good position to collaborate with Japan on issues such as security and coordination. Although Brexit is a concern for Abe, many Japanese people understand the sentiments behind Brexit; as an island people, the Japanese have always considered themselves as distinct from their continental neighbors, much like the U.K. Therefore, Madden feels confident that the Japanese will still have a strong connection to the U.K. whether as investors, diplomats or citizens. The speech highlighted SoftBank’s recent investment in Arm Holdings, a U.K firm specializing in semiconductors and software, to demonstrate the point that the Japanese are still interested in doing business in the U.K. despite the Brexit vote. The strength of British Universities, which consistently feature amongst the top in world rankings, partly explains why British companies benefit from such high-quality research and personnel. Many commentators overlook the fact that Brexit also showed that the British public wanted the U.K. government to strike trade deals with countries outside of Europe without being restrained by E.U. regulations. Brexit then is likely to compel the U.K. to have a closer relationship with countries like Japan.
Although Paul Madden’s speech was largely positive, Justin McCurry of the Guardian, maintained that Japan’s willingness to expand investment and collaboration in the U.K., depends on the outcome of the Brexit negotiations, which so far have yielded no clarity or benefits for neither the U.K. or the E.U. Abe also said that Japan’s desire to maintain its projects in the U.K. depended on whether Brexit would be ‘transparent’ and in line with Japanese interests. The Ambassador acknowledged the concern and pointed to the fact that there is still a long way to go before anyone can conclude what kind of deal will be brokered between the U.K. and the EU. The speech also referred to Theresa May’s speech in Florence, which alienated “hard Brexiters’, as proof that the U.K. is open to staying in the single market. Maintaining membership of the single market will encourage Japanese investors who want to ensure that the U.K. remains a commercial gateway to the rest of Europe.