Orbán to meet UK Prime Minister Theresa May

November 3, 2016


Prime Minister Viktor Orbán will meet in London next week with British Prime Minister Theresa May, reports MTI. The meeting will precede negotiations between the United Kingdom and European Union over Brexit, the UK’s decision by referendum to leave the EU.

Some EU officials reportedly fear that May’s decision to meet Orbán could signal her intention to “divide and conquer” EU member states in order to give herself a better position in negotiating the terms of her country’s exit.

May is seeking to introduce a work permit scheme for EU nationals, while also trying to establish trade deals with EU member states. The UK’s exit from the bloc would include the country’s exclusion from the European single-market, with potentially disastrous consequences for Britain’s economy. A deal with Hungary could be a step toward developing a trading bloc in post-Brexit Europe.

Hungary already does a lot of business with the UK. Hungary’s foreign minister Péter Szijjártó was in London two weeks ago to sign a memorandum on the establishment of the British-Hungarian Business Council. The councilʼs 10 founding members include Tesco, British Telecom, and BP. The 771 UK companies in Hungary employ some 49,000 people. Once the UK leaves the EU, it will be Hungary’s largest non-EU trading partner, according to a senior Hungarian official.

Orbán was one of very few EU leaders to praise May at last month’s EU summit.  He is unlikely to oppose her plans to introduce limitations on EU citizens’ rights to move to and work in Britain, as he would like to keep workers in Hungary. More than 5 percent of the population has left the country since joining the EU in 2004, and nearly twice the number of Hungarians are now living in the UK compared to just after the second Orbán government came to power (55,000 in 2011 to 96,000 in 2015.)  Unofficial estimates put the number of Hungarians currently residing in the United Kingdom at well over 200,000.