The fortnight following the UK’s decision to leave the European Union (EU) has been one of the most extraordinary in modern British history. To paraphrase Sajid Javid, secretary of state for business, innovation and skills, it is the biggest, most far-reaching political decision of our lifetime.
In the immediate aftermath of the referendum there is much uncertainty, and much news—but little concrete information. The result has telegraphed the UK’s desire to reset its relations with the EU. And the complex work of articulating the detailed policies for Brexit must now begin in earnest.
The mechanisms for engagement between the UK and the EU will change, but this does not mean that the UK’s relations with continental Europe will become any less important than they are today. Ways must be found to address common economic, security, and environmental challenges.
Value of Japan relations
That said, it is critical that the UK simultaneously seeks to collaborate more effectively with its valued partners outside of Europe. In this respect, the government has moved swiftly to engage with Japan. According to a Downing Street spokesman, (former) British Prime Minister David Cameron has assured his Japanese counterpart, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, “that the UK greatly valued the investment of Japanese businesses into the UK, and that we would do everything that we could to promote and safeguard that investment in the wake of the referendum”.
Chancellor George Osborne also stated, in parliament, that the UK needs to redouble its efforts to develop its links with Japan, as well as with other important trading partners. The dialogue between our two countries on business and trade began over 400 years ago, and it is now more important than ever that Japanese business—as a valued and important stakeholder in the UK economy—makes its voice heard on these issues.
At times of uncertainty, decisions need to be based on calm and sober analysis, and it is hoped that Japanese investors will continue to patiently evaluate the opportunities that the UK continues to offer. The UK is blessed with a skilled and flexible workforce, a sound and transparent legal system, and some of the finest research capabilities in the world, and it is important to remember that these qualities will endure long after the Brexit arrangements are settled.
Although Brexit news has dominated media channels since the referendum, the other main European story featured has been that of the Euro 2016 football championships, in particular the stunning performance of the Welsh national team.
Qualifying for their first major tournament in over 50 years, they have delighted fans the world over with an intoxicating cocktail of skill and team spirit that propelled them to the semi-finals.
The fire in the Welsh dragon is unquenchable—a fine metaphor for the determination and resolve that the UK must now show in consolidating its place as one of the world’s most compelling destinations for Japanese investment.