British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s work to fulfill the people’s will as expressed in a referendum should command respect rather than attacks, Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó said on Thursday in London, where he was scheduled to meet Dominic Raab, the foreign minister, and Steve Barclay, the minister overseeing Brexit, for bilateral talks.
Speaking to Hungarian public media, Szijjártó called the “attacks” levelled at Johnson by the international media “unjust“.
Hungary’s interest is to eliminate all factors that might stand in the way of further cooperation, he said.
“We have seen the challenges that the European media’s pressure on the US president have created in European-US relations,” he said, adding: “It would be good to avoid that this time.”
Referring to British press speculation that Johnson had asked certain EU countries, including Hungary, to veto any extension to the Brexit deadline, Szijjártó said: “We have read the rumours about this but the Hungarian government has not been approached with such a request.”
Szijjártó said he had met more than thirty company heads during his visit to London, and, based on the talks held, “we can safely say that British investors are very satisfied with the investment environment in Hungary”. They appreciated, he added, one of the lowest corporate taxes in Europe and policies that cut red tape and promote investment.
Concerning the rights of Hungarians living in the UK, Szijjártó said they must not be infringed after Brexit. Hungary’s aim is to maintain an earlier agreement which states that, regardless of the form of Brexit, citizens’ rights must be mutually guaranteed regardless of whether they live in the EU or in the UK.
“We have done our homework because we approved a package of laws this year that guarantees the rights of Brits living in Hungary regardless of the outcome of the Brexit process,” Szijjártó said.
The UK government has decided that all EU citizens who live legally and permanently in the UK can stay in the country after Brexit and their extant rights, but they must apply to the British Home Office in order to receive permanent resident status. According to latest ministry figures, over 1.5 million people have applied for permanent residence, almost 40,000 of them Hungarian.
Several diplomatic missions in London recently indicated that various problems had emerged recently. Polish Ambassador Arkady Rzegocki told BBC that the embassy had been notified by Polish citizens that they had received only preliminary permanent resident status despite having lived in the UK for ten years or longer.
Answering a question about whether the Hungarian government had any similar information, Szijjártó said no such reports had been forthcoming. But if such reports are received, the ministerial commissioner in charge of handling the consequences of Brexit will contact the British authorities, he said. Hungary would immediately intervene because it is considered a priority that the extant rights of Hungarians living and studying in the UK are respected, he added.
The minister said that no British prime minister, since the Brexit referendum, had questioned the UK living up to these obligations.