Japan expresses concerns over uncertain Brexit outlook

Japanese government officials on Friday expressed concerns over the uncertainty surrounding Britain's departure from the European Union after its parliament voted to delay the plan but vowed to work to ensure companies are not adversely affected.
"The outlook remains uncertain because we don't know how much the delay will be and whether the European Union will approve it," industry minister Hiroshige Seko said at a press conference.
"Should the deadline not be extended and Britain leave the European Union without a deal, it will have an extremely grave impact on Japanese businesses," he said.
In Britain, the House of Commons on Thursday overwhelmingly voted to seek a delay to the country's exit from the 28-member bloc from the initially scheduled March 29 to June 30.
The envisaged delay will come if the British Parliament backs a twice-rejected withdrawal agreement Prime Minister Theresa May negotiated with the European Union by Wednesday and the bloc approves the extension.
British lawmakers have already voted to reject a scenario in which the country leaves the European Union without a deal -- a possibility that impacted financial markets. But uncertainties still hang over whether May will succeed in her third try to win approval.
"Although a no-deal exit was voted down, we cannot predict what will happen because it depends on how negotiations (with the European Union) will go," Finance Minister Taro Aso said. "We will have to watch developments closely."
The turmoil over the Brexit issue already appears to be affecting the business strategies of Japanese companies operating in Britain.
Toyota Motor Corp., Nissan Motor Co. and Honda Motor Co. have production facilities in Britain where they together account for about a half of auto production.
Honda said in February it will close its auto plant in Britain in 2021 due to slower sales in Europe, while Toyota hinted earlier this month that it could end production in the country around 2023 in the event of no-deal Brexit.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said at a separate press conference that the government has been asking Britain and the European Union to ensure that the Brexit process will be "predictable and legally stable."
"We will take necessary steps such as providing Japanese companies with information and assistance," the top government spokesman said.

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