On Tuesday, the FT lead with a confident headline: May’s Hopes for Tokyo Dashed as Japanese Hold Back of Trade Talks – and quoting a Japanese trade official commenting on the Prime Minister’s visit to Japan by saying ‘I don’t think there will be substantial progress’. It also quoted the president of Japan’s Institute of International Affairs as saying ‘we can’t negotiate until Britain is out of the EU’.
Given that at the time the headline was written May hadn’t even met with the Japanese PM Shinzo Abe it seemed a little premature. Yet needless to say it was swallowed whole by Guardian deputy editor Paul Johnson who tweeted: ‘May is off to Japan. Hoped for a Trade Deal. Now Japanese say no. Their priority: EU deal. #Brexitreality’. Over on the BBC website a ‘reality check’ by correspondent Karishma Vaswani stated that Theresa May ‘may find that the gap between what she hopes for and the current reality is very wide indeed. The EU-Japan deal is a priority for Tokyo’.
Now, the Beeb’s ‘reality checker’ has had a reality check of her own. Following the meeting between Mrs May and Shinzo Abe it was announced that Japan will, after all, be seeking to replicate with Britain the trade deal it is negotiating with the EU, so that Britain will enjoy free trade with Japan (assuming the EU deal progresses) from the same day as the EU does. In other words, Mrs May has achieved exactly what she had travelled to Tokyo to achieve.