By Costas Pitas
LONDON (Reuters) – British Prime Minister Theresa May will tell major Japanese firms such as Nissan and SoftBank on Thursday that she is seeking to agree a transition period for Britain’s exit from the European Union as soon as possible.
May is meeting the bosses of companies in areas such as banking, life sciences, technology and the manufacturing sector which have poured billions of pounds into Britain but are worried about future trading arrangements.
“We’ve been clear about the sort of deal that we want to secure and that we want trade which is as frictionless as possible,” May’s spokesman told reporters ahead of the meeting.
“I am sure the PM will be reiterating that when she meets the companies today and also the commitment to securing the implementation period as soon as possible to give them a period of time to adjust,” he added.
Major corporations have sought a two-year transition period, which they hope will bridge Britain from leaving the EU in March 2019 to a new relationship with the bloc and allow businesses to make preparations for any trade or regulatory changes.
Both London and Brussels hope to agree a transition deal lasting until the end of 2020, in which Britain would remain in the single market and be bound by all EU laws, by a March 22-23 summit.
The meeting with Japanese investors comes after ministers discussed their Brexit strategy including how closely Britain should remain aligned with the EU and its customs union, a divisive issue for the ruling Conservatives.
Hitachi Europe’s Deputy Chairman Stephen Gomersall, Mitsubishi CEO for Europe and Africa Haruki Hayashi, SoftBank Investment Advisers UK CEO Rajeev Misra and Nomura’s Executive Chairman in Europe, the Middle East and Africa Yasuo Kashiwagi will join the meeting.
Nissan’s Europe Chairman Paul Willcox, Honda’s Senior Vice President in Europe Ian Howells and Toyota’s Europe President and Chief Executive Johan van Zyl will also be at the meeting.
Collectively the three carmakers build nearly half of Britain’s 1.67 million cars and the industry has warned that any loss of free and unfettered trade could hit its operations.
(Additional reporting by Elizabeth Piper; editing by Guy Faulconbridge)