Theresa May's hopes of a rapid trade deal with Japan have been dashed, after she was forced to admit in a joint statement (pdf here) with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe that the "immediate priority" will be finalising the trade deal between Japan and the EU.
The statement adds that the UK and Japan will seek to establish a new economic partnership after Brexit. However, in the joint press conference Mr Abe stopped short of committing to a rapid new trade deal after Brexit, saying only that the two leaders would discuss the issue.
Instead, the Japanese Prime Minister stressed the need for a smooth and orderly Brexit that minimises disruption for Japanese investors in the UK.
Liberal Democrat Chief Whip Alistair Carmichael commented:
"Theresa May went to Japan seeking a new trade deal, she’s now had to admit the biggest priority will be completing the one the EU is already negotiating.
“Once again the promises of the Brexiteers have been dashed on the rocks of reality.
“It’s a sign of the Prime Minister's weakness that rather than going abroad to fight for British jobs, she’s been forced to desperately fight for her own.
“The chances of the UK getting a trade deal with Japan before Brexit are about as slim as the odds of Theresa May staying on to fight the next election."