Hungary regretfully accepts the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union, a foreign ministry official told a forum focusing on Brexit organised by the Budapest Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BKIK). Respecting the internal affairs of other countries is one of the cornerstones of Hungary’s foreign policy, Tamás Menczer, state secretary for communications and international representation, said, suggesting that not every EU country shared this mentality. “It is telling of the work of the current European Commission that while Britain is preparing to leave the European Union, the migrants have got in,” the state secretary said, underlining the Hungarian government’s view that the EU and the UK should strive to reach a fair Brexit deal that protects the rights of Hungarians living and studying in the country.
The state secretary said the current Brexit deal, which is yet to be approved by the British parliament, was in line with Hungary’s values as it guarantees reciprocal rights for EU and UK citizens. Hungary, however, is also making preparations for a “no-deal Brexit”, he said, noting that the government has set up a working group to prepare for such a scenario. He said the Hungarian government welcomed the UK’s commitment to guarantee the rights of EU citizens even in the event of a no-deal Brexit. Menczer noted, however, that in the absence of a free trade deal, UK-EU trade would be regulated by the rules of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), which he said would be disadvantageous to Hungary. Menczer also pointed out that Brexit will mean the departure of the world’s fifth and Europe’s second largest economy from the EU. The UK economy represents more than 14% of the bloc’s GDP, he noted.
As regards Hungary-UK relations, the state secretary said Britain was Hungary’s 11th largest trading partner. Bilateral trade turnover last year exceeded 5.7 billion euros, he said. The UK is the sixth largest investor in Hungary, he said, adding that the British companies doing business in the country employ some 55,000 people. The Hungarian government has signed strategic partnership agreements with four British companies, he said.
Iain Lindsay, Britain’s ambassador to Hungary, told the forum that in the 2016 referendum, the British people had not rejected European values but had rather expressed their will on how they wanted their democracy to be run. The people of the UK voted to leave the European Union but not Europe, he said, adding that they were still committed to European partnership. The British government is working to leave the bloc in an orderly fashion, the ambassador said, adding that no EU citizen would have to leave the UK post-Brexit. On the topic of bilateral ties, Lindsay said both political and economic relations were good. Hungary is the UK’s third largest export market in central and eastern Europe, he noted.