AT a press conference in Tokyo yesterday, Theresa May and Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced that Britain and Japan will work “quickly” to establish a new post-Brexit economic partnership.

Mr Abe’s statement that new investment by Japanese companies in the UK shows the “profound trust” they have in the UK economy is of particular interest here in the North-East, where firms such as Hitachi and Nissan employ thousands of people.

Unfortunately for Mrs May and Mr Abe, they were soon overshadowed by an altogether different double act 6,000 miles away in Brussels – Brexit Secretary David Davis and the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier. During a joint press conference of their own, Mr Barnier revealed there had been no “decisive progress”

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on key issues, and talks had been dominated by the row over the so-called EU divorce fee.

“At the current state of progress we are quite far from being able to say that sufficient progress has taken place,” he said.

The stalled negotiations are becoming increasingly frustrating for the region’s businesses.

Company bosses we speak to every day want to know concrete information about the direction of travel. How can they plan for the future if they don’t know whether or not they might be losing 20 per cent of their workforce if immigration rules change, or if extensive trade tariffs might be on the way?

It is good to see the Prime Minister flying the flag for British commerce, but she would be better placed making sure “decisive progress” can be achieved in the Brexit negotiations first, so businesses have a firm foundation on which to build for the challenges and opportunities ahead.