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UK would become 'less attractive' after Brexit, warns Japan's leader

By Shaun Connolly

Published 06/05/2016

Shinzo Ab. (AP)
Shinzo Ab. (AP)

Brexit would make the UK "less attractive" to Japanese investors, the country's premier Shinzo Abe has warned in Downing Street.

In another major international intervention in the referendum campaign, Mr Abe stressed that Japanese firms viewed the UK as a "gateway" to Europe.

Mr Abe said that a Leave vote "would make the UK less attractive as a destination for Japanese investment," at a joint press conference in Number 10 with Prime Minister David Cameron.

The Japanese premier also stressed that Tokyo is more interested in doing a trade deal with the EU as a block, rather than "individual states" in Europe.

The views echo those of US president Barack Obama, who provoked a furious backlash from the Leave camp when he warned a post-Brexit Britain would be at the "back of the queue" when it came to a new economic agreement with Washington.

Mr Abe said the referendum was a matter for the British people, but added that Tokyo "would be watching your decision with very close attention".

The Japanese premier said he wanted the UK to keep its strong voice in Europe as this gave it more influence over the international economy.

Mr Cameron and Mr Abe stressed they wanted to speed up the conclusion of a landmark trade deal between the EU and Japan.

Mr Abe pointed out that more than 1,000 Japanese firms had invested in Britain, securing some 140,000 jobs.

"British membership is also best for Japanese investment in the UK," Mr Abe said.

Mr Cameron underlined the close business relationship with Tokyo, stating: "We benefit more from Japanese investment than any other country in the world apart from the United States of America; by the end of 2014 the total value of Japanese investment in the UK was £38bn - a huge figure."

The PM said the proposed EU-Japan trade deal would deliver an annual £5bn boost to the British economy. Leicester City's Premier League triumph was used by Mr Cameron to highlight the closeness of Britain's relationship with Japan as he welcomed Mr Abe to Downing St.

Mr Cameron praised the efforts of Japanese striker Shinji Okazaki in taking the club to the pinnacle of English football.

"It's a real pleasure to welcome prime minister Abe back to the UK. And in this historic week for Leicester City, I'd like to kick off by expressing just how much the football-watching public have taken to their Japanese striker Shinji Okazaki.

"He played a key role in their remarkable title win and I believe he's only the second Japanese player to win the league. His ability mirrors that of the country he represents with such distinction," he said.

Mr Cameron expressed his condolences for deaths caused by recent earthquakes in Japan before their talks on the upcoming meeting of the G7 group of industrialised countries in Japan later this month.

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