by Alexander Faludy
Thursday, 27
May 2021
Explainer
07:00

Viktor Orbán needs Boris — not the other way round

The UK has left the EU, but the Tories remain important players
by Alexander Faludy
Hungary Prime Minister Viktor Orban (L) and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson (R)

Tomorrow, Boris Johnson will be meeting the EU’s enfant terrible, Viktor Orbán, whose visit to Downing Street may give some indication into the UK’ s international and domestic post-Brexit trajectory. 

No. 10 has claimed that partnership with Budapest is “vital to the UK’s security and prosperity”, but this line met with some scepticism. Yesterday, former UK Ambassador to the EU and Washington Kim Darroch warned: “I’m not sure Orbán is a massively useful ally on anything much, given his current standing in Europe and internationally”.

But is Darroch correct? In light of tense UK-EU relations, the meeting between the two leaders may be arriving at an opportune moment. Speculation about the two forging a special partnership predated Johnson’s accession to the UK premiership. In May 2018, for example, then Foreign Secretary Johnson surprised many by congratulating the Hungarian PM on his re-election in spite of concerns over the process

And yet, for all the backslapping, this is yet to translate into anything more concrete. In Autumn 2019, there was considerable speculation that Orbán would help Johnson by vetoing an extension for Theresa May’s ‘soft’ Brexit Deal in the European Council, but this did not materialise. A year later, Budapest then surprised London by subjecting UK nationals to immigration control before the end of the Brexit transition period — a seemingly unfriendly act. 

Nonetheless, there are some areas where the two leaders might be able to find some common ground. For one, the EU ‘Neighbourhood Policy’, which is responsible for the bloc’s relations with countries of common strategic significance is in the hands of Hungarian Commissioner Olivér Várhelyi. On issues like immigration from North Africa and the Middle East, the two countries are likely to join forces.

The truth, however, is that Orbán needs Johnson more than the other way round. The UK has left the EU, but the Tories remain important players in the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) — the pan-continental grouping of Euro-sceptic parties. Since leaving the European People’s Party in March, Fidesz has been politically homeless and Orbán will be looking to forge new alliances. In April, the Hungarian PM’s attempt to do this by bringing together parties from the ECR and the far-Right Identity and Democracy ended in embarrassing failure. 

Meanwhile his MEP’s sit ignominiously as ‘non-inscrits’ — quite literally on the back row of the European Parliament. Beyond the symbolic position, this also deprives those MEPs of many procedural — and indeed financial — advantages that come with Euro-Party membership. If Orbán is to secure Johnson’s approval, that will go some way to bringing his party in from the cold. 

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Simon Neale
Simon Neale
1 year ago

On issues like immigration from North Africa and the Middle East, the two countries are likely to join forces.

Oh, yes please!

George Bruce
George Bruce
1 year ago
Reply to  Simon Neale

…. and both could learn from that completely democratic and non-racist country, Israel, who seem to think walls work.

Liz Jones
Liz Jones
1 year ago
Reply to  George Bruce

They do against suicide bombers who are very democratic and non-racist as they don’t care who they kill.

Johannes Kreisler
Johannes Kreisler
1 year ago
Reply to  George Bruce

both could learn

Not both, only one. Hungary is already leading in that aspect, and has most cordial ties with Israel. In fact Hungary is consistently polling as the #1 safest and most pleasant country in Europe for Jews to live in or visit. And Israel is the sole democratic, civilised nation in the Middle east.

who seem to think walls work

Yes, “walls” (fences, more like) do work perfectly well – but they need good governing to work, something the UK seems to lack which makes its great natural asset the English Channel somewhat wasted on it.

Last edited 1 year ago by Johannes Kreisler
rosie mackenzie
rosie mackenzie
1 year ago

The English Channel is useless up against Tony Blair’s Human Rights legislation and booming industry of grasping lawyers.

Chris Hopwood
Chris Hopwood
1 year ago

Blair has been out of power for 14 years and his party for 11 years so why hasn’t this legislation been repealed??

Johannes Kreisler
Johannes Kreisler
1 year ago
Reply to  Simon Neale

And from s u b s a h a r a n* Africa too, most importantly.
(*for some reason the “s~” word triggers the censorfilter, hence the odd typing of it.)

lac_dirk
lac_dirk
1 year ago

The word is probably filtered because it shows your racism too well.

Johannes Kreisler
Johannes Kreisler
1 year ago
Reply to  lac_dirk

Eh? You have a problem with “racism” or something?

Johannes Kreisler
Johannes Kreisler
1 year ago

A year later, Budapest then surprised London by subjecting UK nationals to immigration control before the end of the Brexit transition period — a seemingly unfriendly act. 

?? There was a global pandemic going on that time. The entire world – well, the entire Europe anyway – imposed strict, “seemingly unfriendly” border controls because of that.

John Standing
John Standing
1 year ago

But isn’t that the divide between the nationalist who thinks everyone in the country should be protected from harm and the libertarian who thinks everyone in the country should protect his petty self from harm?

Last edited 1 year ago by John Standing
Johannes Kreisler
Johannes Kreisler
1 year ago
Reply to  John Standing

I’m not aware of any such divide. I’d imagine both nationalists (well, nationists, more like) and libertarians are well aware of the fact that every nation is the sum of its petty individual parts. You seem to imply that nationism is some collectivist ideology. It is not.

lac_dirk
lac_dirk
1 year ago

Nationist isn’t a word. And nationalism is a collectivist ideology, with most nationalists being bigots and/or racists as well.

Johannes Kreisler
Johannes Kreisler
1 year ago
Reply to  lac_dirk
  1. It is a word.
  2. Nationalism is not a collectivist ideology.
  3. The internaz¡s are the only b¡gots in the room. 

Poor form, _dirk. Have you just crawled out from Momentum’s nether regions?

Philip Stott
Philip Stott
1 year ago

Don’t feed the trolls Johannes.

Dirk (think he’s spelling it wrong) has been making a nuisance of himself over at the Telegraph’s comment section for years.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
1 year ago
Reply to  lac_dirk

Does that include the Scottish and Irish nationalists?

Alexander Faludy
Alexander Faludy
1 year ago

Hello Johannes. I am happy to clarify this: the restriction came in separately -in fact at the time when border controls were in general being eased across after the first wave had subsided. It explicitly involved treating UK nationals differently from EEA ones -with whom they were, at the time, meant to enjoy equivalent status. It was a source of considerable bewilderment to the UK authorities -as you will see if you click through to the link to the relevant video post by the British Ambassador in Hungary at the time.
Kind regards
Alex

Johannes Kreisler
Johannes Kreisler
1 year ago

Thank you Alexander (Sándor?). I watched the video – yes, i see it comes across as discriminatory towards Britons with no continental/EEA ties. Quite baffling indeed, you’re right about that.

rosie mackenzie
rosie mackenzie
1 year ago

I wouldn’t pay too much attention to what Lord Darroch says. In his time in Washington he never seemed to grasp the simple fact that he was HM Ambassador to the Court of President Trump, not the Democrats. So in all that time, all we got was intelligence from the opposition and media, not the Administration. We surely could have got it ourselves, from CNN, without paying for that lovely Lutyens House and the salaries and expenses entailed.

Last edited 1 year ago by rosie mackenzie
lac_dirk
lac_dirk
1 year ago

 The UK has left the EU, but the Tories remain important players in the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) — the pan-continental grouping of Euro-sceptic parties. “
The ECR no longer contains the Tories. They left when the UK left the EU, at the end of January last year.
Hungary has essentially reverted to its communist authoritarianism. It has shown that the EU needs stronger ways to keep its members democratic and in line with western values. But that should be possible, even if it may require kicking Hungary out entirely. Then Orban can go hobnob with Erdogan and Putin.

Johannes Kreisler
Johannes Kreisler
1 year ago
Reply to  lac_dirk

Hungary has essentially reverted to its communist authoritarianism. 

Au contraire. Hungary is one of the few countries in Europe standing against the encroaching leftist authoritarianism.
Hopefully the numbers of those countries will grow, with general elections in Italy and France.

John Standing
John Standing
1 year ago
Reply to  lac_dirk

In what way is it offensive to you that Orban’s government protects the Hungarian people from the anti-nation, anti-white globalism of Brussels?

Alexander Faludy
Alexander Faludy
1 year ago
Reply to  lac_dirk

Dear Lac_Dirk,
Membership of the ECR Parliamentary Group and of the ECR Party structure are discreet issues. By virtue of Brexit the Tories no longer have MEPs in the Parliamentary Group but remain in the Party Structure. They are still listed as members on the official ECR website.
Hope this helps.
Kinds regards
Alex