peaking before a bilateral meeting at the G20 summit in Argentina, the Japanese prime minister said he wanted to “pay tribute” to May’s leadership in securing the deal. But, he went on, any prospect of the UK crashing out of the EU without a deal risked international consequences.
“I would like to once again ask for your support to avoid no deal,” he said. “As well as to ensure transparency, predictability [and] legal stability in the Brexit process.”
Japanese investors have repeatedly said the UK could lose its standing as the country’s preferred “gateway to Europe” in the event of no deal, which could disrupt supply chains. The president of Toyota said last month that a no-deal Brexit should be avoided at all costs.
May did not directly engage with Abe’s warning, saying her negotiated deal was “a good deal for businesses in the UK, including the many Japanese companies who have made significant investment into the UK and who will be able to continue on the basis of our deal to trade well with the European Union”.
Abe was not the first world leader to raise the prospect of uncertainty over May’s Brexit deal. In an earlier bilateral meeting, with the Australian prime minister, Scott Morrison acknowledged May had a difficult situation to navigate.
He politely described May as dealing in “typical British fashion” with “a very tough set of issues”.
“I think you’ve shown great resilience and great determination on one of the most vexed issues I think there is,” he went on, a diplomatic reference to her domestic struggles.
Downing Street said the bilateral discussions were on trade and security, including “work to lay the foundations for an ambitious future UK/Australia free trade agreement”.
No 10 has said trade is the focus of all but one of May’s seven meetings with G20 leaders at the summit – the exception being the meeting on Friday with the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, where the topics were the war in Yemen and the killing of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.