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„We in Hungary always shared the worries of the British regarding the EU”, said Hungary’s ambassador in London, Ferenc Kumin, in his lecture for MCC students on March 17th. Brexit, therefore, meant the loss of a like-minded ally in the EU for Hungary, and a tragic loss for the EU itself, said Kumin.
The event was part of the lecture series „Ambassador Talks”, jointly organized by the Media School and the School for International Relations.
Kumin pointed out that for the better or the worse, British society has by now accepted its divorce from the EU, including the opposition. And in a number of areas, the effect of Brexit is already proving beneficial. It has enabled the UK to roll out a much more efficient vaccination campaign than the EU to reign in the Covid pandemic. It has taken back sovereign control over migration policy. And it has replaced the EU’s student mobility program „Erasmus” with its own scheme, the „Turing” program. It costs the UK less, and gives it more control: Which students to send, and to which Universities.
The successful vaccination campaign has benefited the ruling Conservative Party in opinion polls, Kumin said, even though the crisis has led to a drop in GDP of historical dimensions – 9,9%, the sharpest economic downturn since 300 years.
Many Brexit-related problems remain, and in the short term a negative economic fallout is to be expected, Kumin said. On major focus in bilateral relations is on economic cooperation – British companies employ more than 50.000 people in Hungary.
The ambassador pointed out that more than 130.000 Hungarians who had been living in the UK have requested the right to settle there, another consequence of Brexit. That gives a good idea of how many Hungarians have moved to the UK since 2004, when Hungary joined the EU. Kumin underlined that for the upcoming elections in Hungary, the embassy has worked to facilitate voting for those Hungarians who wish to do so, including opening new consular offices in different parts of the country.