Hungarian official: Brexit would be loss for EU

Brexit would represent a political and economic loss for the European Union, and the task now is to minimise any damage caused as a result, a government official said at a conference on the EU’s future held in Budapest on Friday.

Szabolcs Takács, state secretary for EU affairs, at the roundtable entitled “Brexit and After Brexit”, said that it was in the interest of the UK and EU that EU citizens residing in Britain and British citizens in the EU should be given reassurance regarding their status. “It would also be mutually beneficial to create ever closer cooperation in the economy and trade, as well as in defence and security,” he said.

The UK’s divorce from the bloc is inseparable from the ongoing debate on the EU’s future, Takács said. Brexit has prodded the EU to start a period of “self-reflection” to determine which elements should be discarded and which are worth preserving, he said. These issues concern future forms of cooperation between member states. Hungary’s government believes those outcomes that create integration — the reasons that inspired most countries to join the EU — must be preserved at all costs. The European Council should play a leading role in this, given the weight of the matters involved, he said.

The Hungarian government sees the single market, a functional Schengen area and policies on cohesion and accession as the values that “turned the EU into a success story”, Takács said.

Hungary wants an EU capable of effective answers to the challenges facing it, he said.

Iain Lindsay, Britain’s ambassador to Hungary, said the UK wanted to strengthen bilateral relations with EU member states, including Hungary. Both the EU and the UK seem to be committed to a deal beneficial to citizens of the bloc and Britain alike, he said. Britain will comply with all its financial obligations and will be an important partner of the EU, he said.

Many Hungarians live in the UK, Lindsay noted. The British government strives to “put their minds at ease” as to their post-Brexit positions, he said.