Sat, Jan 12, 2019 - Page 6 News List

Abe says Japan hopes UK will avoid no-deal Brexit

‘SOD IT, WE’LL STAY’:Two of the biggest donors to the leave campaign said that Brexit would not happen, with Crispin Odey positioning for the pound to strengthen

AP, LONDON

British Prime Minister Theresa May, right, and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe hold a news conference at 10 Downing Street in London on Thursday.

Photo: AFP

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Thursday urged British lawmakers to back British Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal, saying “the whole world” wants Britain to avoid leaving the EU without a deal to ensure that trade continues smoothly.

Abe’s words on a visit to London were a boost to May, who is struggling to win support for her deal in parliament.

Lawmakers are due to vote on the agreement on Tuesday, and all signs suggest they will reject it, adding uncertainty to Brexit less than three months before Britain is due to leave the EU on March 29.

“We truly hope that a no-deal Brexit will be avoided. In fact, that is the wish of the whole world,” Abe said.

Warning of the economic impact from a no-deal Brexit, Abe said that Japan considers Britain “the gateway to the European market” and Japanese firms employ more than 150,000 people in the UK.

“Even post-Brexit Japan intends to maintain this very good relationship,” he added. “We truly hope that more investment will be done by Japanese businesses in the United Kingdom.”

Major employers include automakers Nissan and Honda, who rely on “just-in-time” delivery of parts from across Europe to factories in the UK.

Honda said it plans to stop production at its factory in the western English city of Swindon for six days in April to deal with potential border delays.

UK lawmakers on Thursday held the second of five days of debate on the deal, as former heads of Britain’s foreign intelligence service and the armed forces said that the agreement would threaten national security.

Former MI6 chief Richard Dearlove and former British chief of the defense staff Charles Guthrie wrote to local Conservative Party associations saying that the agreement would “place control of aspects of our national security in foreign hands.”

The deal “cuts across the three fundamentals of our national security policy”: membership in NATO, relations with the US and membership in the “Five Eyes” intelligence alliance with the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, they said.

Both men are Brexiteers who say Britain should leave without a deal and fall back onto WTO rules for trading with the EU.

Meanwhile, two of the biggest donors to the Brexit campaign said they now believe the project they championed would be abandoned and that the UK will stay in the EU.

Peter Hargreaves, the billionaire who was the second-biggest donor to the 2016 leave campaign, and veteran hedge fund manager Crispin Odey told Reuters that they expect Britain to stay in the EU.

As a result, Odey, who runs his hedge fund Odey Asset Management, said he is positioning for the pound to strengthen after his flagship fund previously reaped the benefit of betting against UK assets amid market fears.

The government is likely to first ask for an extension to the formal exit process and then call for a second referendum, Hargreaves said.

“I have totally given up. I am totally in despair, I don’t think Brexit will happen at all,” he said.

“They [pro-Europeans] are banking on the fact that people are so fed up with it that will just say: ‘Sod it, we will stay,’” he said.

Odey said that while he did not believe a second referendum would take place, he did not think Brexit would happen either.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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