Brexit success in Japan proves Remainers wrong in £380m export win

Kemi Badenoch says UK joining CPTPP is ‘very big deal’

James Cleverly hailed Britain’s post-Brexit relationship with Japan which Remainers claimed would be destroyed by leaving the EU but has now become pivotal for international security and trade. Express.co.uk has been given exclusive access to the Foreign Secretary’s visit to the G7 in Karuizawa and briefings on the post-Brexit success story of the UK’s relations with Japan.

Mr Cleverly’s visit has come hot on the heels of the UK being accepted as the 12th country in the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) trade group on the back of the strengthening relationship with Japan.

Exclusive figures shown to Express.co.uk have revealed that the UK’s food and drink sector is enjoying a particularly good trading relationship with Japan.

Meanwhile, senior diplomats in Japan have told Express.co.uk that after initial concerns about the UK leaving the EU “nobody is asking about Brexit anymore” because the country wants to get on with building its relationship with the UK.

With Nissan expanding its car building operations in Sunderland as well, the picture is very different to the “doom and gloom” predictions of Remainers in 2016 when David Cameron persuaded the then-Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to warn that Brexit would destroy Japanese investment.

At the bilateral meeting with Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi the two men warmly welcomed each other and spoke of their shared interests.

Mr Cleverly said: “First of all thank you for hosting us here in Japan for the G7. More than that, thank you for being a truly engaged country on the international stage.

“Not just in your immediate region but the very decisive action you took in response to Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, demonstrating a genuinely global outlook.

“We have a longstanding relationship, Japanese companies are significant investors in the UK economy, and have proven to be really positive and engaged economic partners.

“We see social interaction and I am very very keen to ensure what is already a good…what is already a great relationship maximises its potential.

“I think the conversations we have had over the last day and a half have cemented that.”

Figures seen by Express.co.uk show that sales of UK food and drink – ranging from cheeses, English sparkling wine, spirits, lamb and seafood and much more – continue to grow as Japanese consumers recognise the incredible quality and appreciate the heritage and traditions of UK food and drink producers.

Promotion through events such as Foodex as well as media partnerships and business events connecting international buyers with UK food and drink producers have helped achieve sustained growth, with exports increasing by 31 percent between 2021 and 2022 – totalling over £380million.

This is part of a worldwide export resurgence in export sales in food and drink, with most categories now exceeding pre-pandemic levels to reach a record £24.8billion.

For the very first time, exports to non-EU markets have broken through the £10billion barrier, hitting £11.1billion.

Meanwhile, diplomatic sources have talked about how Japan has come round to Brexit despite “initial anxiety.”

A source said: “It doesn’t come up as a question or issue any more.”

But part of this was thanks to an early diplomatic effort from the embassy providigin reassurance on the impact of Brexit, particularly on labour costs.”

A source noted: “The Japanese hate uncertainty.”

Now the Japan relationship is described as “a post-Brexit success story” with trade and security relations building.

One important turn has been the decision by the Japanese government with the support of the UK to take a more active role in international affairs including strong support for Ukraine.

“In 2014 [when Russia annexed Crimea] Japan did not even apply sanctions, now it is applying sanctions and providing support for Ukraine,” a diplomatic source noted.

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