The Japanese government is warning that jobs at firms such as Nissan could be at risk if the UK leaves the European Union.
Japan’s submission to the Foreign Office’s review of the relationship with Brussels said Japanese firms were attracted to the UK because it offered a gateway to the prized European market.
And if that was lost, tens of thousands of British jobs with Japanese companies would be jeopardised, the government in Tokyo has indicated.
A national newspaper reported that the memo from the Japanese government expects the UK to maintain a “strong voice” in Brussels.
David Cameron has committed to renegotiate the UK’s relationship with Brussels and then hold an in/out referendum on staying in the 28-member bloc before the end of 2017 if the Tories win the general election.
Japanese car-maker Nissan employs more than 6,000 people at its Washington factory, with several times that number dependent upon the manufacturer in the supply chain.
Nifco and Hitachi are among other high-profile Japanese companies in the region, jobs which could be at risk.
The memo says: “The UK, as a champion of free trade, is a reliable partner for Japan. More than 1,300 Japanese companies have invested in the UK, as part of the Single Market of the EU, and have created 130,000 jobs, more than anywhere else in Europe. This fact demonstrates that the advantage of the UK as a gateway to the European market has attracted Japanese investment. The Government of Japan expects the UK to maintain this favourable role.”
Last night North East Liberal Democrats said the memo showed why leaving the EU would put at risk thousands of North East jobs.
Angelika Schneider, the Lib Dem candidate in the 2014 European elections, said: “The North East has proven to be a very attractive location for Japanese companies.
“They have become an increasingly vital part of the regional economy. A large part of the attraction is the high quality of skills and manufacturing expertise we have here, but a key aspect, as highlighted by the Japanese government, is the UK’s membership of the EU.
“Without access to the favourable trade terms that go along with our membership, we would struggle to attract inward investment.
“We must not put existing jobs at risk but build on our existing trading partnerships to create new jobs and growth.”
Earlier this year former Prime Minister John Major warned of “substantial costs” to the country if the UK were to leave the EU amid growing public frustration with Brussels.
Nissan and other companies exporting to Europe would probably face tariffs of about 10% if the UK abandoned its EU partners.
But on a visit to South Shields during the byelection this year, UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage said the UK would simply be free to form its own trade agreements.
We must not put jobs at risk but build on our trading partnerships to create jobs and growth