THE “whole world” wants Britain to avoid a no-deal Brexit, Japan’s leader, Shinzo Abe, has insisted as Theresa May sought to widen support for her controversial plan by unexpectedly calling trade union leaders, including the close ally of Jeremy Corbyn, Unite’s Len McCluskey.

At a joint press conference following talks in Downing St, Mr Abe expressed his “total support” for the Prime Minister’s Brexit Plan and sought to bolster his host by declaring: "I would like to extend my deepest respect for the strong will and hard work by Theresa for the parliamentary approval of the Withdrawal Agreement.”

His backing came after Greg Clark, the Business Secretary, urged MPs across Parliament to work together to prevent the "disaster" of leaving the EU without a deal and suggested he would support a series of "indicative votes" in the Commons to see what sort of agreement could command a majority.

As MPs participated in the second day of the Brexit debate, Mrs May persisted with her mantra, telling reporters: “There is a good deal on the table and for those who want to avoid no-deal then backing the deal is the thing to do."

Downing Street confirmed the PM had had "constructive" phone conversations about her Brexit Plan with Mr McCluskey and Tim Roache of the GMB.

Mrs May’s calls were part of a move to seek wider support for her proposal, having earlier spoken to Labour MPs about their plan to protect workers’ rights, which No 10 stressed ministers would "consider very seriously".

But afterwards, Mr Roache said: "After nearly three years I'm glad the Prime Minister finally picked up the phone…The deal on the table isn't good enough and non-binding assurances on workers' rights won't cut it.

"If the deal genuinely did the job for GMB members, our union would support it but it doesn't," he added.

Earlier, Mr Corbyn had suggested it was a “possibility” that Brexit could be delayed if Labour won a general election to allow the party leadership more time to go back to Brussels and renegotiate the Withdrawal Agreement.

At the joint press conference in Downing St, Mr Abe stressed how the UK was his country’s gateway to the European market, pointing out that Japanese businesses had created 1,000 bases in the UK, involving more than 150,000 jobs.

"It is the strong will of Japan to further develop this strong partnership with the UK, to invest more into your country and to enjoy further economic growth with the UK. That is why we truly hope that a no-deal Brexit will be avoided and in fact that is the whole wish of the whole world,” he declared.

The Japanese Prime Minister spoke as Honda announced it would halt production at its Swindon plant for six days after Brexit to enable it to stockpile parts in the wake of Britain’s withdrawal from the EU.

Another Japanese car giant, Toyota, has already warned that any disruption to its supply chain following Brexit was likely to lead to it temporarily closing down its plant at Burnaston near Derby.

On the day that also saw Jaguar Land Rover announce the loss of 4,500 UK job losses, Des Quinn, Unite’s national officer, claimed Britain's car workers had been “caught in the crosshairs of the Government's botched handling of Brexit”.

At Westminster, Labour’s Martin Whitfield for the pro-EU Best for Britain campaign, commented on Mr Abe’s remarks about a no-deal Brexit, saying: "It is humiliating for the Prime Minister to be told to her face that the whole world wants to avoid a no-deal scenario yet she still refuses to rule it out.

"Countries across the globe are looking at Britain in despair. Japan, like our other allies, understands the folly of a no-deal Brexit. Why doesn't Theresa May?” asked the East Lothian MP.

Earlier, Sir Vince Cable, the Liberal Democrat leader, claimed it was “beyond doubt” that the Conservative Government’s “botched Brexit” was contributing to the “mess” of economic bad news and added: “The Government could give the whole country an economic boost by giving the people the final say on the deal with the option to exit from Brexit.”

In other developments:

*Simon Coveney, Ireland’s Deputy Prime Minister said it was “absolutely not” inevitable Mrs May would lose next Tuesday’s Commons vote, saying people should not take anything for granted;

*Michael Gove, the Environment Secretary, warned the Grand National could suffer if there were a no-deal Brexit, saying the free movement of horses "would be harmed" if MPs did not back the PM’s plan and

*Boris Johnson, the former Foreign Secretary, in a speech in Dublin described the backstop row as a “temporary gloom,” which there was time to clear and claimed so-called Project Fear was being used to keep the UK in the customs union and to "make a nonsense" of Brexit.