TOKYO/LONDON – Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has urged Boris Johnson, Britain’s incoming prime minister, to avoid a no-deal exit from the European Union.
The request was included in a message, sent on Tuesday to congratulate the former foreign secretary on being elected leader of Britain’s ruling Conservative Party.
Abe said he strongly hopes that Britain will continue to listen to voices from the business world, including those from Japan-affiliated companies, and to lead a free and active economy in Europe and around the globe.
Abe said he has high hopes for an orderly Brexit to minimize the negative effects of the move on Japan-affiliated firms in Britain and on the world economy.
Abe also voiced eagerness to deepen ties between Japan and Britain. He said Tokyo wants to work closely with London in tackling international and regional issues, including in security and defense.
On Wednesday, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga echoed Abe’s remarks, saying Tokyo will continue to urge Britain not to leave the European Union without a deal.
“We have been watching the situation surrounding Britain’s exit from the EU with great interest, and have asked both Britain and the EU to ensure that the negative impact, including of a no-deal exit, on Japanese companies and the global economy is kept to a minimum,” Suga told a news conference.
“Our stance on the issue remains unchanged, and we will be closely watching the new government’s actions,” he added.
Johnson was one of the biggest figures in the campaign for the 2016 referendum on Brexit and has vowed to take Britain out of the European Union by the Oct. 31 deadline.
Johnson, best known for his gaffes, rhetorical flourishes and turbulent love life, was announced as the new party leader on Tuesday.
The 55-year-old was scheduled to officially take over the reins of power during a meeting with Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace on Wednesday.
Johnson’s predecessor Theresa May was forced out after failing to get Parliament to support a Brexit deal she struck with EU leaders that he has promised to overhaul, despite Brussels insisting no changes are possible.
During his victory speech on Tuesday, Johnson urged the country to “ping off the guy ropes of self-doubt and negativity” and pledged to unite a badly divided country.
But his promise of leaving the European Union with or without a deal puts him on a collision course with high-profile MPs in his own party who do not want a no-deal Brexit, threatening his wafer-thin majority and raising the prospect of an early general election.
The former London mayor easily beat his rival, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, in a vote of party members.
U.S. President Donald Trump was the first world leader to offer his congratulations, saying: “He will be great!”
Johnson has never hidden his ambition for power, using his trademark jokes and bluster to pull off unlikely electoral victories, but he takes over at a time of immense upheaval.
Three years after the referendum vote to leave the EU, Britain remains a member after twice delaying its departure.
Johnson led the 2016 “Leave” campaign and — after May delayed Brexit twice — insists the latest deadline must be kept, calling it a “pivotal moment” in Britain’s history.
“We’re going to get Brexit done on October 31,” he declared after winning 66 percent of almost 160,000 votes cast.
However, Brussels says it will not renegotiate the divorce deal it struck with May to end the 46-year partnership — even though MPs rejected it three times.
EU negotiator Michel Barnier said he wanted to work with Johnson “to facilitate the ratification of the withdrawal agreement and achieve an orderly Brexit.”
Johnson faces significant opposition from parliament over his threat to leave with no deal, including from Conservative colleagues.
Addressing party members after his win, Johnson promised to “work flat out from now on,” saying he would announce his top team in the coming days.
His government has a majority of just two — 320 votes to 318 — in parliament’s lower House of Commons and Westminster is watching for any signs of an immediate challenge to his power.
The main opposition Labour Party is not expected to force a confidence vote this week.
MPs are expected to go on their holidays on Friday, giving Johnson some breathing room over the summer to try to get a new Brexit deal.
But when he returns, if “no deal” looks likely, many MPs have vowed to stop him — a move that could trigger an early election.
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