Hungary's far-right government says it won’t veto Brexit extension as favour to Boris Johnson

Foreign minister says country will not seek to have casting vote

Jon Stone
Brussels
Friday 13 September 2019 16:48 BST
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Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban is seen by some Brexiteers as ideologically sympathetic
Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban is seen by some Brexiteers as ideologically sympathetic (Reuters)

Hungary's foreign minister has poured cold water on suggestions that the country would veto a Brexit delay as a favour to Boris Johnson.

Some Brexiteers had suggested that the country's right-wing populist prime minister Viktor Orban would refuse to approve an extension out of ideological sympathy for the Brexit project.

But the country's foreign minister Peter Szijjarto said Hungary would not be at the forefront of decision making on the issue.

“If there is such a request we’ll make our own decision,” Mr Szijjarto said in an interview reported by the Bloomberg news agency.

“A few large western European member states really want to put an end to this and want it decided one way or another, so probably it won’t be our decision that will be key on this issue.”

Mr Johnson has been ordered by parliament to go to Brussels and ask for a further delay in order to avoid a no-deal Brexit - but he says he does not want to, and would rather leave without a deal on 31 October.

Having another leader veto the extension has been presented by some as another way around the issue.

It is very unusual for a leader on the European Council to outright veto a decision backed by all other member states: though it is technically possible because unanimity is required for a decision, it is more usual for a compromise position to be reached.

Hungary's government has shown little proactive interest in Brexit since Britain triggered Article 50, despite Tory MEPs backing it in the European Parliament last year when it came under fire for its abuse of the rule of law.

Back in March Brexiteers announced they were going to lobby Mr Orban's government, as well as the populist outfits in power in Poland, and at the time Italy. They were met with no success.

Many of the populist leaders in question have their own rows with Brussels, and are not keen to waste their political capital on helping the UK. Most are not even particularly keen on Britain's departure from the European Union, at least in public.

Whether the UK gets another Brexit extension is more likely to be decided by leaders like Emmanuel Macron, who previously pushed for a harder line policy against the UK – and Leo Varadkar, who has said he has "endless patience".

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