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Dutch, Japanese PMs offer to help save imperiled Brexit deal

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — The prime ministers of Japan and the Netherlands said Wednesday they want Britain's withdrawal from the European Union to go as smoothly as possible and to prevent Brexit from happening without an agreement on future ties between the bloc and its former member.

Britain is due to leave the EU on March 29. Prime Minister Theresa May is fighting to persuade lawmakers to endorse her government's deal with the EU on divorce terms and post-Brexit trade relations. So far, May appeared likely to lose in a House of Commons vote next week, even though business leaders fear a "no-deal" Brexit could have far-reaching economic and social effects.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said he and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte agreed during bilateral trade talks in Rotterdam on Wednesday that "we were both in for the avoidance of no-deal Brexit and confirmed the importance of a smooth process."

"We want to see the influence of Brexit to the global economy be minimized through ensuring transparency predictability and legal stability through a transition," said Abe, who plans to meet with May in Britain on Thursday.

Rutte said he was working with counterparts in like-minded countries such as France and Germany "to help my British colleague to bring the vote next week to a successful outcome." He did not elaborate on what leaders of remaining EU member nations were doing to win support for the current Brexit deal in the deeply divided House of Commons.

"The present deal on the table is, I think, the best deal," Rutte said. Abe visited Rotterdam as part of Japan's preparations for hosting the leaders of the world's top 20 economies in Osaka in June. Rutte hailed a trade deal the EU and Japan signed last year that eliminates about 99 percent of the tariffs on Japanese goods sold to the bloc. The agreement is expected to lift about 94 percent of the tariffs on European exports to Japan and rise to 99 percent in the future.

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