“The rights of Hungarians living in the United Kingdom cannot be reduced even following the termination of Britain’s EU membership (Brexit)”, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó said on Thursday in London prior to talks with several high-ranking members of the British government, including Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab and Brexit Minister Steve Barclay.
In a statement to Hungarian news agency MTI, Mr. Szijjártó declared: “Hungary’s goal is to preserve the validity of our previous agreement stating that the rights of citizens must be mutually respected, irrespective of the form Brexit takes and irrespective of whether they live in the European Union or in Great Britain”.

“We have done our homework, in view of the fact that this year we adopted the package of regulations that guarantees the rights of British citizens living in Hungary no matter what the outcome of the Brexit process”, Mr. Szijjártó stressed. According to the decision of the British government, foreign EU citizens who are living in the United Kingdom legally can remain in the country following the termination of Britain’s EU membership and their current rights will remain in place, but they must apply for a residency permit from the British Home Office to enable them to remain in the UK permanently.

According to the latest figures available to the Ministry, the number of people who have applied for permanent residency had exceeded 1.5 million, including some 40 thousand Hungarians. Diplomatic missions operating in London have reported recent problems, however.

Poland’s Ambassador to London Arkady Rzegocki told BBC Radio a few days ago that the Embassy is even receiving reports of problems from Polish citizens who have been living in the United Kingdom for ten years or more; many, for instance, are only receiving preliminary residency status.

In reply to a question from MTI on whether the Hungarian Government has also received similar reports, Mr. Szijjártó said he has not been aware of any such reports to date, but if he does, the Ministerial Commissioner responsible for handling the consequences of Brexit will immediately be contacting the British authorities. “In such cases, we will take immediate action; one of the most important issues for us is that the rights of the Hungarians living and studying here are respected”, Mr. Szijjártó said, adding: “Previous political agreements provide a good chance of this, in view of the fact that no British Prime Minister has called this commitment into question since the Brexit referendum”.

“Prime Minister Boris Johnson is striving to enforce the will of the British people as expressed at the Brexit referendum, and accordingly he should not be attacked, but instead deserves praise”, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade declared. According to Mr. Szijjártó, Hungary regards the attacks made one the British Prime Minister by the international press as unfair. “It is in Hungary’s interests to filter out all circumstances that could hinder future cooperation”, he added.

“We have seen, for instance, how European media pressure on the U.S. President had posed challenged to European-American relations, and it would be good to avoid that now”, the Minister said, adding: “We have agreed on this with all of my British negotiating partners”.

In response to British press speculation that Boris Johnson will be asking other EU member states, including Hungary, to veto a possible Brexit postponement, Mr. Szijjártó declared that he had read the rumours about this, but no such request has been made to the Hungarian government.

In reply to a question from MTI concerning the reception of the new Brexit agreement proposal put forward by British Prime Minister this week on the part of EU member states, Mr. Szijjártó said: “I don’t know if a new agreement can be agreed upon by all 27 EU member states within a few days or weeks, but this reply doesn’t mean yes or no, and it certainly doesn’t mean the exclusion of the fact that this is ultimately possible”. Mr. Szijjártó added that he is firmly convinced that nobody currently knows the answer to this question, and this is why the EU summit due in two weeks’ time, which will provide an opportunity for consultation and for coming to a decision, is extremely important.

“The importance of continued unhindered relations is also illustrated by the fact that the 750 British enterprises currently operating in Hungary provide jobs for 60 thousand people”, Mr. Szijjártó said. The Minister stressed that during his visit to London he also met with the directors of over thirty companies, and based on his negotiations with them it may be determined that British investors are extremely satisfied with Hungary’s investment environment, and highly appreciate the fact that Hungary has the lowest rates of tax in Europe, as well as the change in the focus of its economic policy that Hungary has implemented within the fields of investment promotion, reducing bureaucracy and in the form of tax cuts.