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Diplomacy, Economics

Building post-Brexit ties with Japan

Ahead of the Group of 20 summit, The Yomiuri Shimbun interviewed British Prime Minister Theresa May.

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Updated: June 28, 2019

The Yomiuri Shimbun: Regarding the intensified global common challenges such as protectionism, what are you going to claim and expect at the G20 Summit as the UK’s Prime Minister?

May: Along with Japan we are strong supporters of global free trade. The multilateral trading system with the WTO at its core has been the basis for economic growth around the world and the guarantor of stability in trade relations.

Issues, such as trade, that we are discussing in Osaka underline the continued value and importance of multilateralism and of compromise. And they highlight the need for countries to resolve disputes using well-established frameworks. It is only by working together that we can overcome the world’s greatest challenges.

In the WTO, it’s crucial that members actively participate and engage in discussions on ways we can strengthen the organisation. We recognise that the WTO is under pressure, and it’s important that we work to reform the organisation so that it is better able to meet the challenges of the future. These include the growing importance of the global trade in services and the need for better regulation for digital trade. Everybody benefits from a stable international trading environment and it is crucial that all countries play by the same rules.

Q: What do you specially expect in the UK-Japan relationship from now on?

A: The UK and Japan are natural partners. Thriving, innovative, island nations committed to defending the global rules that we have shaped together. I personally remember fondly my visit to Japan in 2017, and was pleased to welcome Prime Minister Abe to London earlier this year. I am proud that as Prime Minister I have seen the UK-Japan relationship go from strength to strength.

Our exit from the EU provides an unprecedented opportunity to secure an ambitious UK-Japan bilateral trade arrangement to strengthen our trade relationship with Japan and build on the EU-Japan EPA to the benefit of both our countries. During his visit to the UK in January, Prime Minister Abe and I committed to making that ambition a reality.

The future poses global challenges for both the UK and Japan: an ageing society, AI and data, clean growth and climate change. But these challenges also present huge opportunities for our people and our economies. We can and should work together with Japan to share knowledge, expertise and experience, and build partnerships to tackle these global challenges together.

Japan has a very busy year ahead, as hosts of the Rugby World Cup later this year, then the Olympics and Paralympics in September 2020. It is a unique opportunity for Japan, and a unique opportunity for us to further strengthen UK-Japan relations.

That is why in 2019-20 the UK Government and British Council are hosting a ‘UK in Japan’ year, “UK in JAPAN 2019-20,” which will involve a series of high profile events and activities showcasing UK excellence in business, innovation, culture, arts and education.

Q: What were the main reasons why the smooth Brexit could not be achieved by the initial deadline? How do you respond to the perception that international respect for the UK’s politics was greatly damaged?

A: As I said in my resignation speech, it will always remain a matter of deep regret to me that I have not been able to deliver Brexit.

In a democracy, if you give people a choice you have a duty to implement what they decide. I negotiated the terms of our exit and a new relationship with the EU but unfortunately was not able to convince enough MPs to back that deal.

It will be for my successor to seek a way forward that honours the result of the referendum. But I would say that based on my discussions with world leaders over the past three years, and from the evidence from Foreign Direct Investment, trade and other economic indicators, the UK remains a very attractive place to do business and a reliable partner on security, defence, climate change and a host of global challenges. I have no doubt that will continue to be the case.

Q: Is “No deal” a realistic option? It seems the risk of no-deal has increased. What do you think about that?

A: I’ve been clear that leaving with a deal remains the best way of delivering on the result of the referendum and securing a successful Brexit.

But as a responsible government, we have spent almost three years preparing to minimise any disruption in the event of no deal. We will absolutely continue to make all necessary preparations. However, I would reiterate my long-held position that no deal would have a significant impact across the UK, and that’s why throughout my premiership I have done everything in my power to leave the EU with a deal.

Q: How does the UK get involved with the tension increased by the US’s withdrawal from the Iran Nuclear Deal? How should the international society act? How do you evaluate the PM Abe’s visit to Iran?

A: We are working hard with our partners to keep the nuclear deal in place. We believe maintaining the nuclear deal is in the best interests of Iran, the region and the world.

We welcome Prime Minister Abe’s efforts to engage with Iran and to find diplomatic solutions to de-escalate the current tensions.

We all agree that stability and security in the region is essential — unintended escalation would not be in any party’s interests.

Q: Regarding the US-China friction over 5G network, the UK has not shown any clear policy to eliminate Huawei. How is the UK organizing the policy regarding this issue in relation to the alliance with the United States?

A: The security and resilience of the UK’s telecoms networks is of paramount importance.

The British Government has undertaken a thorough, evidence-based and hard-headed review of the 5G supply chain to ensure the secure and resilient roll-out of 5G. It will report in due course.

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The Japan News
About the Author: The Japan News is published by The Yomiuri Shimbun, which boasts the largest circulation in the world.

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