Those who advocated for Britain to leave the EU, and campaigned for a Leave vote in the referendum, have maintained all along that stories of investment leaving our shores and relocating in mainland Europe in the event of Brexit not maintaining the current level of access to the Single Market are mere scaremongering, part of “Project Fear”, and typical of those hell-bent on talking down the economy.
Instead, Brexit backers within the Fourth Estate, like the Sun, Mail, Telegraph and Express, have seized upon every scrap of optimistic economic news to show that their view is right and the nay-sayers are wrong. There was no sign of foreign investors taking their factories and jobs elsewhere. Or rather, not until the Japanese bombshell that was detonated at the start of the G20 meeting in Hangzhou.
As Faisal Islam, now Political Editor at Sky News, has told, “At the start of the G20 Summit, the Japanese government has taken the unprecedented step of warning of a series of corporate exits, ‘great turmoil’ and harmful effects if Brexit leads to the loss of single market privileges”. The Japanese are not given to hyperbolic or pejorative language. This is serious advice which our Government is expected to take on board.
There is more in the report: “An official Japanese government task force on Brexit, has collated views of big Japanese companies from car companies to banks and pharmaceutical companies that invest in the UK … It has produced a 15-page list titled ‘Japan's message to the UK and the EU’, detailing requirements from Brexit negotiations … It lists the consequences if the requirements are not delivered”.
And it concludes “Japanese businesses with their European headquarters in the UK may decide to transfer their head-office function to Continental Europe if EU laws cease to be applicable in the UK after its withdrawal … In light of the fact that a number of Japanese businesses, invited by the Government in some cases, have invested actively to the UK, which was seen to be a gateway to Europe, and have established value-chains across Europe, we strongly request that the UK will consider this fact seriously and respond in a responsible manner to minimise any harmful effects on these businesses”.
So what does the pro-Brexit side have to say to that? Well, one of their fine and indeed upstanding supporters went on the BBC last week to put us all straight: “Jacob Rees-Mogg tells #WATO any effort to keep Britain in the single market after Brexit is ‘code for rejecting the referendum result’”. Fortunately, he is not in Government.
Theresa May has already had the hard word from all around the G20 over Brexit. Now she has the sound of the Japanese warning ringing in her ears. Access to the Single Market could be a deal breaker for investors, and the Free Movement corollary is not their problem. Or does she have to wait until someone decides to walk before acting?
It was all going to be so easy. Until the real world intervened.