James Cleverly looks forward to a strong trading relationship with Japan post-Brexit


James Cleverly highlights the huge appetite in Japan for British-branded goods and the easing of Japanese concerns about Brexit.

James Cleverly (Braintree) (Con)
I intend to speak only briefly. I welcome the Minister for Trade Policy, my hon. Friend the Member for Meon Valley (George Hollingbery) to his place. I think we all agree that his first performance was outstanding. I am sorry he is not in his place, but the hon. Member for Dundee East (Stewart Hosie) gave a very concise and well-defined explanation of how international competition works. That was surprising and welcome from the Scottish National party Benches, because we so very rarely hear such sensible discourse from that side of the House.

I had the privilege of visiting Japan, with my right hon. Friend the Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mark Field) and my hon. Friend the Member for Chippenham (Michelle Donelan), in September 2016. It was shortly after the Brexit vote and it is fair to say that our decision to leave the European Union ​generated quite a bit of disquiet and concern among Japanese society and Japanese businesses. Indeed, Prime Minister Abe wrote a fair and balanced letter to our own Prime Minister outlining their concerns.

A huge degree of work on a bilateral basis by our Department for International Trade and Foreign and Commonwealth Office, right up to bilateral meetings from Prime Minister to Prime Minister, has gone a long way to calming those concerns and we have seen significant increases in investment by Japan in the UK. Japan already invests heavily in this country, with over 1,000 businesses employing over 100,000 people. Despite Brexit, SoftBank committed to a very significant investment in Arm, a fantastic innovative British company.

I am very glad to say that in the conversations I have had with Japanese businesses and politicians, the enthusiasm for Great Britain and British products seems to be completely unabated. We talk about how welcome Japanese manufacturing is here in the UK, but when I went to Japan it was very clear that they have a huge appetite for British-branded goods. I understand fully why colleagues from the Scottish National party are so keen on a UK-Japanese business arrangement, because the Japanese, without a shadow of a doubt, have a real taste for Scotch whisky. Indeed, they produce very good whiskies of their own, which are well worth a taste.

After 29 March 2019, we will no longer be just a star on someone else’s flag. We will be an independent free-trading nation and we will be reaching out to partners across the world. One of the strongest and best partnerships ahead of us is with the good people of Japan. I welcome that and I welcome this motion.