Brexit has left Britain no choice but to deepen relations with the United States, the Commonwealth, and other major regional powers in the world. Among these nations, Japan is the most stable and prospective for economic and security partnership with Britain. There are some vital points that Britain and Japan share. Both nations have to put emphasis on the special relationship with the United States, despite erratic Trump diplomacy and his reputation in the world. Britain has no choice but to turn to America in the Atlantic area after Brexit. Japan is more in compelling need of a staunch alliance with the United States, as the threats of China and North Korea are growing. In terms of political ideals, both nations value democracy, the rule of law, and human rights. Furthermore, both nations rest their global standings on leadership in science and technology to manage competition with emerging economies.
Meanwhile, Britain’s effort to develop strategic and economic partnership with major powers outside Europe has stalled. Notably, Prime Minister Theresa May was enthusiastic to invite US President Donald Trump to the United Kingdom. As a nationalist, Trump welcomed Brexit so much that he even met Ex-UKIP leader Nigel Farage at the Trump Tower in New York, shortly after his election victory. However, anti-Trump movements grew more and more virulent across Britain, particularly when Trump called London Mayor Sadiq Khan a terrorist in the wake of the London Bridge attack this June. In view of this, Queen Elizabeth hinted that Trump’s visit would be held off, in her speech at the parliament (“Trump's state visit to UK not mentioned in Queen's speech”; Guardian; 21 June, 2017). India is another prospective partner. However, Commonwealth bonds and the common law system are not vital to reach a bilateral trade agreement. Rather, it is important that Britain wants to liberalize financial services in India, while India demands liberalization of their student visas and intra company transfers to Britain (“India dents UK trade hopes with lapsed deal”; Financial Times; April 5, 2017). Also, even if the trade agreement is reached, India is a risky market, as the World Bank index shows that her world rankings in economic freedom, corruption, and government effectiveness are extremely low (“Pros and Cons: Bilateral Trade Agreement between Post Brexit UK and India”; Euromonitor International; May 5, 2017).
While May’s post-Brexit diplomacy is critically challenged, she has achieved a landmark success with Erdoğan’s Turkey in January. Along with starting trade talks, Britain and Turkey signed a £100 million deal to develop TFX stealth fighters for the Turkish Air Force (“Theresa May delivers message of support to Turkish president”; Financial Times; January 28, 2017). Both nations are on the flank of Europe, and Britain is leaving the EU while Turkey has been denied the bid for EU membership. However, human rights abuses are concerned, if Britain were to develop economic and strategic partnership with Turkey, particularly after the latest coup attempt. More problematically, Erdoğans Turkey is turning towards increasingly Islamist, and seeks closer ties with Russia, China, and Iran. Turkey even decided to buy S-400 anti-air missile from Russia (“Turkey has agreed to buy Russia's advanced missile-defense system, leaving NATO wondering what's next”; Business Insider; July 17, 2017). Therefore, her loyalty to NATO is critically questioned.
In view of these problems with non-European partners, Japan is a highly hopeful for post-Brexit Britain. As I noted earlier, Britain and Japan share vital national interests and political values. The centrpiece of the Anglo-Japanese relationship is the economy. This is typically seen in motor car factories of Nissan and Toyota in Britain. Actually, 1,000 Japanese companies employ 140,000 workers in the United Kingdom. In trade, Britain is the 10th largest importer to Japan last year (“Japan has the power to radically shape Brexit”; Quartz; September 4, 2017). Also, defense ties between both countries are growing these days. It was quite symbolic that Prime Minister May made a courtesy visit to Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera on Helicopter Destroyer Izumo of the Maritime Self Defense Force, when she came to Japan for the bilateral meeting at the end of last August (“Theresa May inspects MSDF helicopter carrier at Yokosuka base”; Japan Times; August 31, 2017). It is quite exceptional for Japan to host a foreign leader to her sovereign warship. However, some challenges, particularly Brexit, are critical hurdles to the Anglo-Japanese partnership.
First, let me talk about the economy. The Japanese government and business society are keen to see how Britain will minimize the negative impacts of Brexit. While May explored to start a bilateral trade talk with her counterpart Shinzo Abe based on an EU-Japan free trade deal, the Japanese side was cautious despite their friendly posture. Former UK Ambassador to Japan David Warren told that Japan had deep doubts about Brexit, but the Abe team was too polite to say that (“Japan Unimpressed With May’s Brexit But ‘Too Polite’ to Say So” Bloomberg News; August30, 2017). In the joint declaration on the economy, May and Abe agreed to enhance engagement by trade ministers of both countries, and establish the Trade and Investment Working Group to lower the risk of Brexit and lead free trade worldwide (Japan-UK Joint Declaration on Prosperity Cooperation; 31 August 2017). Actually, this declaration based on a 15 page Japanese request last year, entitled “Japan’s Message to the United Kingdom and the European Union” (also in Japanese), that was taken a dire warning by the British media. Fundamentally, this document requests Britain to ensure transparent Brexit negotiations and to maintain free trade. For this objective, Japan urges smooth and stable transition of Brexit to both Britain and the EU. Specifically, Japan asked both sides to maintain Britain’s access to the EU market, to allow the single passport system for British financial institutions, and so forth.
The focal point of Japanese request is to keep the business environment for financial institutions to stay in the UK. That’s the vital reason why Japan pusheｄ hard for continual single passport system. Also, Japan urged Britain to maintain free immigration of skilled workers to secure her banking interests in Europe (“You should read Japan's Brexit note to Britain — it's brutal”; Business Insider; September 5, 2016).Shortly after the document was released, former Ambassador Warren, currently Associate Fellow at Chatham House, insisted that Britain embrace bitter Japanese medicine. He was critically concerned with rising protectionism in the United States and the future of free trade. Also, he agreed that continual access to the European market is vital for Britain to remain as a major economy (“Japan Lays Out a Guide to Brexit”; Chatham House Comment; 6 September 2016). It is imperative for Japan to assure her business in Britain and Europe, and the note goes beyond this. As a mature and responsible economic power, Japan proposes prescriptions to lessen the Brexit shock on the world economy, which is starkly different from India’s adherence to infant industry protection as an emerging economy.
On the other hand, Britain’s engagement with Asia Pacific security is very helpful to Japanese defense, in view of rising threats of China, North Korea, and even the ISIS. May and Abe agreed to send UK troops to joint exercises in Japan, which is the second foreign armed forces after the United States to be trained in the Japanese territory. In addition to regional threats, Lord Peter Ricketts at the Royal United Service Institute raises critical concerns with China’s One Belt One Road Initiative throughout Eurasia. He argues that both Britain and Japan can share global and Asia Pacific responsibilities as the two closest allies of the United States (“The Case for Reinforcing the UK–Japan Security Partnership”; RUSI commentary; 13 July 2017). Britain’s role in East Asian security role draws attention from some American experts, such as Michael Auslin at the American Enterprise Institute, particularly, her participation in the Operation Freedom of Navigation (“Britain flies into the danger zone: But the risks of getting involved in Asia are worth it”; Policy Exchange; January 12, 2017 and “Britain and Japan have a unique chance to reshape the world – they should seize it”; Daily Telegraph; 28 April, 2017). In addition, Britain and Japan signed a joint project to develop next generation stealth fighters, which will be called F-3 on the Japanese side (“Japan-UK Fighter Project Sign Of Closer Defense Partnership”; Aviation Week; March 24, 2017). As Britain agreed to make TFX fighters with Turkey earlier, more advanced technology will be applied in the project with Japan.
However, it is too wishful to expect Britain to undertake a substantially vital role in East Asian security. Most importantly, the deployment of F-35Bs for UK carrier strike group has been delayed so much due to spending cuts of the Strategic Defence and Security Review in 2015 that the Queen Elizabeth needs to host those from the US marines on board. British media frequently mentions her gigantic size exuberantly, but she will not be completely capable as an independent carrier until 2023 when Britain is scheduled to have 42 of them (“HMS Queen Elizabeth to get first F-35 jets next year”; UK Defence Journal; April 26, 2017). Moreover, since the Royal Navy operates in Europe, the Middle East, and the rest of the world, it is necessary to wait for the commission of the Prince of Wales, the second Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carrier, to expect their full commitment to the Far East. Considering rotation and overhaul of carriers, Britain needs two of them at least, if she were to engage steadily with the Asia Pacific. For some years, HMS Queen Elizabeth will be more like a huge helicopter carrier, and not of much use against Chinese infringement on freedom of navigation and North Korean threats, without US Marine F-35Bs on board. However, her helicopter squadrons and huge internal spaces for command/control facilities will be helpful to fight against ISIS that is currently infiltrating in South East Asia. It will take a while until Britain has steady power projection capability in the Far East to deepen the Anglo-Japanese defense partnership.
The prospect of post-Brexit Britain is so volatile, but it is Japan’s interest to help May’s Global Britain. Some Europhiles such as former Prime Minister Tony Blair works hard to repeal Brexit, but their endeavor is unlikely to win nationwide support at this stage. Japan is not in a position to interfere into British domestic politics, but she can create a favorable atmosphere for Britain’s engagement with the world after Brexit. Otherwise, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn could take office. Corbyn is called another Michael Foot. He said that NATO be closed, and furthermore, Britain abstain from defending European nations from Russia (“Jeremy Corbyn called for Nato to be closed down and members to 'give up, go home and go away'”; Daily Telegraph; 19 August, 2016). More terribly, he remarked that all the Britain’s causes of the wars after World War II were wrong, in his lecture at Chatham House this May (“Jeremy Corbyn: Britain has not fought just war since 1945”; Independent; 13 May, 2017). That shows his sheer ignorance and apologism of history. Postwar Britain has done so many military interventions for world peace, from the Malayan Emergency to the Sierra Leonean Civil War, the Kosovo War, and so forth. A Britain led by Corbyn shall never be Japan’s strategic partner.
Another challenger to current Global Britain comes from the anti-mainstream within the ruling Conservative Party. Notably, pro-Chinese George Osborne pushed for Britain to join the AIIB or Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, and attracted Chinese investment in Hinkley Point and Bradwell nuclear power plants as the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He was the most prospective heir to former Prime Minister David Cameron before the EU referendum (“The one chart that shows how George Osborne is almost certainly going to be our next Prime Minister”; Independent; 1 September, 2015). Neither Corbyn and Osborne is preferable, thus, Japan should be proactive to help Global Britain by May or someone like minded, as long as Britain is not likely to repeal Brexit.,br>