Péter Szijjártó, Hungary’s minister for foreign affairs and trade, has told the ‘Europe After Brexit’ conference that “we need an agreement between Great Britain and the European Union that does not lead to a deterioration of relations between Hungary and Great Britain.”
“We reject the approach according to which the British must be punished; their decision must be respected even if it would have been in Hungary’s interests for Great Britain to remain a member of the European Union,” he said.
Szijjártó said his country regretted Britain’s impending departure because the UK has provided the “loudest voice” in the bloc’s pro-sovereignty camp.
“Brexit is a political loss because the British spoke objectively and pragmatically in the debate about the future of Europe, and the sovereignty camp has lost its ‘loudest voice’,” he explained.
The minister also made it clear that he believed Brexit was not the cause of the EU’s difficulties. On the contrary, Brexit was a consequence of the EU’s failures.
“Brexit isn’t the cause of difficulties, but the consequence of the EU not having introduced the measures that it should have.”
On trade, Szijjártó warned in a separate interview that “we need to avoid a situation whereby the EU goes to the back of the line for Britain”, which is laying the groundwork for a number of bumper free trade agreements with major economies once it finally leaves the bloc and regains its power over trade policy.
“Losing such a partner and giving it away to others would be a suicidal strategy,” the minister emphasised.
Szijjártó said that Hungary would push for complete tariff-free trade in goods between the EU and the UK, to avoid “a situation where Britain is better off trading with the Americans, Turks, Indians, Australians or Japanese”.
The U.S. is already Britain’s single biggest trade partner and the country’s prospective EU ambassador, Professor Ted Malloch, has previously said the UK would be at “the front of the queue” for a trade deal under the Trump administration.