* Abe says does not want overnight Brexit cliff edge
* Abe says overnight rule change would sow confusion
* May has said she wants UK to be best place for business
* Japanese companies are major investors in the UK
(Adds quotes and detail)
By Guy Faulconbridge and William James
LONDON, April 29 Japan's Shinzo Abe called on
Prime Minister Theresa May to ensure a smooth transition for
business as the United Kingdom leaves the European Union, to
avoid a cliff edge where rules and regulations for firms change
A day after talks with May at her country residence at
Chequers outside London, the leader of the world's third largest
economy made clear his concerns over Brexit while also
underlining his long-term commitment to the United Kingdom.
Japanese companies including carmaker Nissan and
conglomerate Hitachi have invested more than 40 billion
pounds ($52 billion) in the United Kingdom. Japanese companies
employ a total of 140,000 people in the country.
"When the UK leaves the EU, if the rules change overnight,
there will be a concern about a possible confusion arising," Abe
told reporters in London.
Abe added that he wanted the UK to prioritise "a smooth and
transparent process including setting a transition period."
The outcome of the Brexit negotiations will shape the future
of Britain's $2.6 trillion economy, the world's fifth biggest,
and determine whether London can keep its place as one of the
top two global financial centers.
Since the shock June 23 Brexit vote, Japan has expressed
unusually strong public concerns about the impact of Brexit on
the United Kingdom, the second most important destination for
Japanese investment after the United States.
May has said she wants what she calls a "phased
implementation" for Brexit, though she has two years of
complicated negotiations ahead with 27 other members of the
European Union over how that would work.
While many diplomats and chief executives say they expect a
Brexit divorce deal to be struck, there are thousands of
complicated trade, financial and other regulations which need to
be clarified to ensure trade is not interrupted when the United
Kingdom leaves at the end of March 2019.
And though leaders have repeatedly said it would be in the
economic and security interests of both the United Kingdom and
the European Union to strike a deal, there is concern in
financial markets that the talks could be derailed by politics.
"Japan supports a strong UK and a strong Europe," Abe said.
"It is necessary that the firm solidarity of Europe as a whole
is maintained while ensuring a smooth and successful Brexit,"
After talks with Abe on Friday, May said she wanted to
ensure "the UK remains the best place in Europe to run and grow
a business, whether it's one operating at home or abroad."
May mentioned SoftBank's purchase of Britain's most
valuable technology company ARM, Nissan's commitment to
build the new Qashqai model at their plant in Sunderland and
Toyota's 240 million pound investment in Derby as evidence that
Japanese business was confident about Brexit.
May has said she wants a Brexit deal which will enable
Nissan and other automakers to flourish in Britain, and last
year the Japanese company said it had received assurances
allowing it to increase production at its plant in Sunderland,
(Editing by Alistair Smout and Toby Chopra)