Cabinet Minister Kwasi Kwarteng insisted that it would be “irresponsible” not to forge relations with right-wing leader Viktor Orbán and the Hungarian government.
Amid criticism of the autocrat’s visit to No 10 later in the day – one of the first EU leaders invited by Boris Johnson to visit since Brexit – the business secretary stressed the need for ‘s ‘engage’ with member states of the bloc.
Lisa Nandy, the shadow foreign minister, pointed out yesterday that Orbán has made minorities the scapegoat, including denouncing “Muslim invaders”, using anti-Semitic tropes in political campaigns and undermining democracy.
“Will Boris Johnson challenge the Hungarian Prime Minister on his appalling record? Asked the leader of the Labor Party. “I wouldn’t hold my breath.”
Talk to Sky NewsKwarteng, however, said he did not “approve” of the Hungarian leader, who also previously described the migrants as “poison”.
“As a leader, as politicians, cabinet members, people with responsibilities, we have to talk to all kinds of people, to all kinds of leaders around the world whose values we don’t necessarily share,” a- he declared.
“I think Viktor Orbán’s views on migrants are things I would not support in any way. Having said that, I think we need to engage with the EU, he’s an EU leader, Hungary is an EU country, we are part of the EU ”.
He added: ‘In this post-Brexit world I think it is quite right that we build bilateral relations with the countries of the old EU, I think it is quite reasonable to do so. .
“Not to do it, I think, would be irresponsible – so it is a diplomatic relationship that we want to develop, we want to talk to European leaders and it is quite right that the Prime Minister does.”
On Thursday, the prime minister’s official spokesperson said the government “does not hesitate” to raise human rights issues, and said Mr.
However, they defended the visit, saying: “As chairman of the Visegrad Group of Central European countries later this year, cooperation with Hungary is vital for the prosperity and security of the UK.” He said the meeting “would promote UK interests in these areas and discuss issues in the wider region”.
Left-wing Labor MP Zarah Sultana argued that Mr Orban should “not be welcomed here”, saying: “His anti-Semitism, his Islamophobia against migrants and other minorities must be challenged.”
“I urge you to cancel the plan to welcome him to Britain,” she said in a letter to the Prime Minister on Thursday. “He should instead be challenged for his long and shameful case.”
Posting on Twitter, the Chatham House think tank director added: “Viktor Orban is the first EU leader Boris Johnson will welcome after the Irish Prime Minister. [Micheál] Martin.
“In view of Orban’s record in eliminating Hungarian democracy and close relations [with] Putin, the visit calls into question the values defended by Johnson according to Global Britain. Britain looks small instead.