Brexit: A View from London

Sept. 29, 2016


At a members-only event, BCCJ members gathered at the ANA InterContinental on 28 September 2016 at a round-table to hear Alok Sharma MP, Minister for Asia and the Pacific, provide an update on the effects that Brexit has had on the government and the UK so far, and to discuss the questions and views of BCCJ members operating in Japan's post-Brexit landscape.

After lunch and conversation with BCCJ members, Sharma opened the round-table session by summarizing the events that have occured since the EU referendum held in the UK on June 23rd 2016 and expressly reinforced the deep commitment of the UK government to the Japan-UK relationship.

Reactions after Brexit

Sharma acknowledged June 23rd had been an emotional day for all involved and that the impact had been far-reaching, but he asked members present not to look at the UK "through the lens of Brexit" and reminded them that the UK may have chosen to leave the EU, but that they will remain in Europe.

He emphasised that Brexit will not affect the country's engagement in organisations such as NATO, the G8, G20, and the OECD. "The UK has always been global and Brexit will enhance this global outlook." he said.

The speaker highlighted the swift reaction of the government after David Cameron's resignation in appointing the new Prime Minister, Theresa May, and said assuredly that she was "absolutely the right person" for the job; a highly experienced, focussed, and respected leader.

Sharma said, "our relationship with Japan remains incredibly important" and added that May had already met Prime Minister Abe at the G20 in China and at the UN in New York. These meetings were warm and a confirmation of the deep relationship between the two countries.

Sharma emphasised how important it is to the British government to talk to Japanese business leaders who have invested in the UK and that he was here to hear the voices of Japan through regular dialogue with Japanese companies.

Post-Brexit 

The speaker acknowledged the concern expressed by businesses regarding the uncertainty following Brexit, but said he was hopeful that in the two years of negotiations following the activation of Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, that a reasonable and amicable agreement would be reached.

After all, said Sharma, "we need the EU just as they need us, no-one likes uncertainty, and both sides wish to agree on a deal sooner rather than later."

Sharma highlighted three key points:

  • The UK is incredibly open and global as an an economy and in outlook
  • The relationship with Japan is very important and there is ongoing contact with businesses
  • The UK government is aware of the uncertainty and impatience felt by all those involved

Implications for business

In the subsequent Q&A session, a variety of issues were discussed, including the reasons for the British public's decision to leave the EU and the current sentiment of the nation, the question of Scottish independence, passporting issues in the financial sector, the current situation in the Conservative and Labour parties, the impact of Brexit on education, the implications for business and exports, the question of contingency planning, matters relating to immigration and employee recruitment, and access to the EU market.

Sharma concluded by emphasising that although there will not be a "daily running commentary" on the Brexit developments, dialogue is ongoing with ministers and delegations regularly meeting with businesses and organisations globally to exchange information and collect as much feedback as possible. 

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