Viktor Orbán’s interpretation of the Brexit referendum

In the wake of the stunning Brexit referendum outcome, pro-government papers wisely waited for word from the boss before they dared express any opinion on the subject. They didn’t have to wait long. At 8:00 a.m. Viktor Orbán began his regular fortnightly Friday morning interview on the state radio station.

The first topic was of course the British referendum, something the Hungarian prime minister was not at all eager to talk about. The little he said had more to do with his own referendum, to be held sometime in the fall, on the European Union’s right to set “compulsory quotas” of asylum seekers in Hungary. One could ask what these two referendums have to do with one other.  Of course, nothing. What is important for him is his own referendum, and he exploits the opportunity presented by the Brexit referendum.



According to his own version of the story, the whole unfortunate referendum on Brexit was largely the result of the refugee crisis that hit Europe in the last year and a half. He claims that the British people revolted against Brussels because the European Union couldn’t handle the migration crisis. They punished Brussels for its incompetence. Orbán as usual is twisting the truth to fit his own agenda. What the majority of British voters were worried about, in addition to being subordinated to an outside power, was not so much the refugees and migrants who have reached the Continent but those “economic migrants” from East Central Europe who have settled in the British Isles in the last few years.  The 350,000 Poles and the 150,000 Hungarians, for example. At least these are the official figures, though most likely the real numbers are higher.

He was particularly unwilling to talk about the future except to state that “Hungary is in the European Union because we believe in a strong Europe,” a totally meaningless statement, only to return to his main message –the immigration issue. “But Europe can be strong only if it finds answers to such important questions as immigration. Many people, in the case of Great Britain the majority, consider the decisions [on the refugee issue] to be creating not a stronger but a weaker Europe.” So this, in his opinion, is what led to the “leave” vote.

Orbán indicated that he had been in touch with the prime ministers of the Visegrád countries. Robert Fico’s interpretation of the referendum result is almost identical to that of Orbán: “Great numbers of EU citizens reject the migrant policy,” which should obviously be changed. Jarosław Kaczyński went further. He would like to see an entirely new EU constitution which would include “reforms,” after which the EU “could make an offer” to Great Britain. What would these “reforms” include? Among other things, a new definition of the relationship between the EU and the member states, naturally in favor of the nation states. I’m certain that for the Euroskeptic Visegrád countries Kaczyński’s scheme would be a bonanza. Loosen European integration and keep a strong ally, the also Euroskeptic Great Britain, in the fold. This is a totally unacceptable response to the Brexit vote.

Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó regurgitated Viktor Orbán’s wise words about a strong Europe, adding that “the time of honest politics has arrived in Europe” because the EU has for some time been following hypocritical and politically correct policies that have led to wrong answers to the migrant crisis. Lajos Kósa, representing Fidesz as a party, claimed that the majority of the Brits voted to exit from the Union because Brussels couldn’t defend them from the migrants. “It is an impossible situation that the socialist-liberal elite is pro-immigration while the decisive majority of European citizens is not.” Kósa added that “we can agree with the man who came up with the bon mot that Europe for the sake of a few million migrants lost 64 million citizens and the second strongest economy.”

Ildikó Csuhaj of Népszabadság usually uses her contacts with Fidesz politicians to get a sense of their attitudes on particular issues. According to her, the consensus in the party is that with Brexit Orbán lost an important ally. But in the future Orbán’s voice will become more audible in the EU. Her informants also believe that with the departure of anti-Russian Great Britain Orbán will have an easier time convincing the EU to put an end to the anti-Russian sanctions. The couple of Fidesz EP representatives she interviewed emphasized the importance of the unity of the Visegrád 4 countries, which should be used as a counterweight to French-German dominance. One of the EP representatives, György Schöpflin, is convinced that the European left wants to punish the exiting Brits. He had to admit, however, that it is not only the left that wants immediate negotiations but also the Christian-conservative parties in the European People’s Party (EPP). If that is the case, the Fidesz members of EPP have little choice but to go with the flow.

The leaders of the opposition parties naturally see the situation differently. Csaba Molnár, DK EP member, accused the British conservatives of a 20-year-long anti-EU campaign, which resulted in the disastrous outcome of the referendum. Viktor Orbán has been doing the same thing for years, and if he doesn’t stop eventually Hungary too will leave the EU. He therefore implored Orbán to call off the referendum.  Viktor Szigetvári of Együtt also asked Orbán “to stop his mendacious anti-EU campaign and his anti-European provocations.”

István Szent-Iványi, the foreign policy expert of the Magyar Liberális Párt, looks upon the outcome of the referendum as the result of “the British government party’s two-faced, ambiguous policies regarding the European Union.” The same attitude is present in Hungary and, given the lesson of the British decision, he called on the Hungarian government to make its relationship to Europe unambiguous, to stop its campaign against Brussels, and to cancel the referendum on compulsory quotas. At present, neither Hungary nor Europe needs this referendum, which is no longer about refugees but about Hungary’s relations with Europe.

Tibor Szanyi, an MSZP EP member, called David Cameron’s decision to hold a referendum irresponsible and selfish since he placed his own political survival ahead of the future of his country. But perhaps Cameron’s political sins will have a beneficial effect on Orbán. One possible outcome of the British decision might be that European politicians will have had enough of the selfish, nationalist members’ behavior and  will continue European integration without them. At the moment, Hungary still has a chance to be part of this work, but only if Orbán drastically changes course. He added that Brexit will have the most negative effect on the Central and East European countries because the leading demand of those who campaigned for Great Britain’s exit was that citizens of the European Union should not take work away from British citizens.

Given the official Fidesz interpretation of the British referendum, the great majority of the Hungarian people, as is often the case, will be misinformed and misled. I suspect that Orbán will go on campaigning against the EU and will hold the referendum. Otherwise, it is hard to predict how serious a handicap the absence of British support for the Visegrád 4 will be in the coming months. I suspect that from here on Orbán will have a more difficult time in Brussels.

June 24, 2016
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Steven Colman
Steven Colman
June 24, 2016 11:56 pm

Mr Orban and his mates will be less happy when payments from Brussels will be reduced as is inevitable after Britain exit. I doubt if Mr Putin will replace the missing cash even ‘though he is happy to see the temporary embarrassment of Europe at this calamity.

June 25, 2016 8:48 am

I believe Putin have been contributing to places that really matters to Mr Orban and his mates. Unfortunately those contributions do not benefit the Hungarian people, at least not all of them!

June 25, 2016 12:23 am

It was not just the immigrant issue which tipped the scales in the UK in favour of leaving the EU.

Voters were fed up with having paid more taxes into the EU, then it got out of it, unlike Hungary which gives practically nothing to the EU, but which receives, if I remember a previous commentator’s statistics correctly, something like 2.2 billion forints per day.

Some of this money comes directly from hard-working British workers, through their taxes, and most of these hard-working tax payers have been unaware that their earnings are funding the establishemnt of a corrupt Hungarian oligarchy.

Many of us have been saying for years that we cannot understand why Brussels will do nothing about the management of finances to Hungary, despite being fully aware of what happens with the moneys. Maybe now they will do something about it and rethink the distribution of EU coffers.

You are Wrong
You are Wrong
June 25, 2016 7:27 am

Wrong. The joining to the EU caused economic crisis for Hungary, which is provable by statistics.

June 25, 2016 7:37 am

Youare a troll!

Where are these statistics?

June 25, 2016 8:54 am

Where is that statistics?

June 25, 2016 11:45 pm

No I am not wrong.

UK citizens are fed up with funding corrupt Hungarians, amongst other things, and that is why they opted out.

And as for your “statistics”, both contracts and statistics produced by the Hungarian mafia government are meaningless, since they are manufactured and manipulated according to the whims and machinations of Orbán.
Fidesz “statistics”, which are nothing more than lies, have no credibility.

June 25, 2016 1:50 am
For the following Orbán obfuscations, please read the translations of what he, our great “leader”, really means: “Hungary is in the European Union because we believe in a strong Europe,”- Translation- For God’s sake keep the EU intact, cause my family is still not rich enough- I have cousins too, you know, and then there are all my aunts and uncles- oh the list is so long and time seems to be running out, viz Eu cash – how the +”*°` am I going to keep by boat afloat. “Many people…… consider the decisions [on the refugee issue] to be creating not a stronger but a weaker Europe.” Translation – I don’t really give a monkey’s about migrants, since very few actually would want to settle in Hungary, but I gotta keep Hungarian racism on the boil as it is keeping me in power, which means lots of lovely EU dosh – gimme gimme gimme “the EU “could make an offer” to Great Britain. – Translation- Oh please please, if I keep my fingers crossed maybe the UK (which is so generous with its funds to the EU and which has helped my family so much) will reconsider cause like… Read more »
June 25, 2016 3:28 am

What O doesn’t (want to) understand:

Young people voted overwhelmingly (73% !!!) for Remain – seems they couldn’t convince their parents and grandparents to vote the same.

A bit OT – I had to laugh at Andy Borowitz’s story – gallows humour at its best:

Across the United Kingdom on Friday, Britons mourned their long-cherished right to claim that Americans were significantly dumber than they are.

But I hold out hope that, come November, Americans could become dumber than us once more.

Andrew J Chandler
June 25, 2016 6:19 am
The progressive, pro-European, ‘liberal-socialist élite’ in Britain have only themselves to blame. Jack Straw, then Foreign Secretary, has pointed out that in 2004 the Blair government (Euro-enthusiast) refused an opt-out on the freedom of movement, which was taken up by other governments, including France. This would have prevented EU migrants from accession states (Hungary, Poland etc) getting work, and therefore residence, in host countries unless an employer could demonstrate that the post could not be filled through local labour. France, like the UK, was experiencing considerable immigration from its former colonies, and this has continued in the UK, so that more than half the immigrants to the UK, are from outside the EU or from Ireland. In 2004-5 my wife, a Hungarian citizen, was discriminated against (illegally as it transpired) in France on the grounds of the French opt-out. The British government did not opt to apply subsidiarity and welcomed the tens of thousands who went to the UK from central-Eastern Europe. By the time this opt-out came to an end in 2011 there were already hundreds of thousands, as you document. Most of these are still there, but intend to return. Some have already done so, like the family… Read more »
June 25, 2016 6:36 am

Just a footnote to. Andrew’s message.
If you heard the BBC R4 Today prog you would have been surprised to hear a leading Brexiteer tell us that they never promised to reduce immigration. It wa just a matter of control and presumably sovereignty. This is true, they never did, but the xenophobes thought they did.
The remain campaign was badly run and my frustration has turned to anger and disgust at the result.

Cameron should and could have set a limit on participation and proportions before the result was binding. Say 75% voting and 60% for exit. Unfortunately he is just a smooth talking chancer who has a great deal to answer for.

June 26, 2016 3:15 am
And furthermore, Andrew Chandler, readers here might like to know that just one of the many benefits which Hungarian workers in the UK claimed was child benefit, even for children still resident in Hungary! This is the sort of mind-boggling unheard-of-anywhere-else generosity which ordinary tax-paying Brits were fed up with, and the Brexit vote was a protest vote against such unfair and unequal regulations. When we do the opposite and live and work in Hungary, instead of the generous handouts, we are met with raving doctors, for instance, who shout about “who do we think we are, expecting free medical treatment here” – and this to a Hungarian citizen, with EU health card…and the list goes on viz the complete imbalance of benefits, contributions and wealth, in the form of generosity from the UK, and greedy corrupt exploitation by the likes of immoral nonentities such as Orbán and Co. The EU has simply shot itself in the foot by doing nothing about known, outed and exposed corruption within its member states. I do hope that Brexit is a wake-up call, and Brussels will now stop just wagging a finger at Orbán and simply saying “you naughty boy”, and actually… Read more »
June 25, 2016 6:47 am
London Calling! A very good analysis,Eva – particularly the ‘disconnect’ between refugees and migrants which Orban purposely conflates. We are currently going through the vindictive phase – Juncker, Merkel and Schultz just can’t stop piling on the grief. Such arrogance and enmity – when they should look at their own conduct in this calamity. But Britain will bounce back – we are nothing if not resilient – and a clever nation regardless of what the US thinks. One of the consolations is that my taxes won’t continue to seed Orban’s egregious corruption. So, EU, you are welcome to your arrogant, undemocratic, bureaucrats – steeped in your sclerotic organisation – where you refuse to safeguard – and audit – the use of people’s hard-earned taxes. Go and enjoy Orban’s Choo Choo train on a day out from Brussels and see how your ‘project’ is festering in corruption. Just keep ignoring the fact that your inaction has led to this – and continue to ignore the pressures building up about the impossibility of managing 27 different nations – some if whom shouldn’t even be in the ‘club’. And good luck with Turkey – just hope the ‘blackmail’ pact doesn’t unravel. And when… Read more »
June 25, 2016 7:56 am

Great Britain?

You mean Little England? The Scots are already planning to leave and join the EU …

Btw, do you think Boris is prime Minister material? I’m not so sure, too much like Trump …

June 25, 2016 9:05 am

Great Britain Calling!


You don’t usually show such ignorance – nor such spite.

Great Britain is made up of other countries besides Scotland.

Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland. You may recognise these countries as being in the Euro’s .

And Scotland are not planning to leave Great Britain. (Alas.)

They are planning to have a referendum.

Nor are they planning to join the EU.

Scotland will never join the EU in my – or your – lifetime.

So much wrong in such a short post.


Charlie from Great Britain.

June 25, 2016 9:17 am


I read about it here:
Nicola Sturgeon is to directly lobby European Union member states for support in ensuring that Scotland can remain part of the EU, after Scots voted emphatically against Brexit on Thursday.

The first minister has disclosed that she is to invite all EU diplomats based in Scotland to a summit at her official residence in Edinburgh within the next two weeks, in a bid to sidestep the UK government.

After Scotland voted 62% to 38% to stay in the EU, she plans to begin immediate discussions with the European commission to “protect Scotland’s relationship with the EU and our place in the single market”.
How do you interpret this?

June 25, 2016 10:45 am
Charlie moves from bombast and incomprehensible rhetoric into plain ignorance and misunderstanding (not to mention yesterday’s racist dig at Wolfi for being German – and thus responsible for a war that happened before he was born!). Yet another aspect of my home country that I have to apologise to the world for! Let’s look at some facts and probabilities: Scotland almost certainly WILL now leave the UK – and when it does, it will, without doubt, apply to join the EU – and will be happily welcomed on board. Great Britain does NOT include NI – the UK is the United Kingdom of Great Britain AND Northern Ireland. You’ll notice that Scotland doesn’t get a mention – and nor does Wales, in fact Wales only ever gets mentioned when we remember our neighbour and change ‘England’ (briefly) to ‘Englandandwales’. NI is extremely unlikely to ever be reunited with Ireland, but, given the strong Remain vote there and the mess we’ve just made of the rest of the UK, it’s not impossible. In fact, right now I’d say it’s about as likely as I thought the UK voting Leave was a few days ago. And look what happened there. Face it… Read more »
June 25, 2016 11:06 am

Thanks, Paul, for your kind words!

I totally agree with you and I’m really sorry for the Brits, especially the young ones who voted remain but forgot (?) to convince their elders, parents and grandparents.

A bit OT:
Actually I was born during WW2 and my father was a decorated officer (got the Knight’s cross) but he was just a soldier, no Nazi – the French authorities after the war declared him an “also ran” (Mitläufer) and I was meant as a kind of remembrance for my mother because he was almost sure that he wouldn’t make it. Btw I’ve discussed this on with some of the lunatics there …

June 26, 2016 3:47 am

I’m also here to back Wolfi, whose posts I generally like.
Incidentally I also like “Little England.”
Let’s step back a little and think – which is better, which is worse? Great Britain? Little England?
What’s wrong with Little England.
I don’t see anything at all wrong with Little England.
England alone (without Scotland or Wales) has a GDP that is bigger than most EU states. London, with New York, is one of the world’s financial hubs. I don’t see that changing in the near future.
England alone has a GDP per capita that is more than three times as high as Hungary’s. England alone (without Scotland) is an economic powerhouse.

Note – I, too, think it unlikely that N. Ireland will opt to join Ireland. The majority there are Protestant, and for deep historical reasons lean heavily toward England.

But Scotland? It might leave.

I like England. I could live there again very happily. Why would I like it less now?

June 25, 2016 9:25 am
Unfortunately by this morning the news sites are filled with articles about companies that are considering to move their operations out of the UK. I remember for years listening to the commercial on the radio that essentially advertised UK as the Gate To Europe. .Although the tax benefits for large corporations are enormous when relocation their headquarters to the UK (Pfizer in 2014 was considering $1.4 billion a year by locating its international headquarters in the UK), for the “small package” the expense of logistics (shipping, clearing customs, time) is almost the same. If companies need to clear two borders.and pay two taxes, the added expense will make it not wort it. Avon for example just moved their headquarters from NY to the UK, but I am sure they will reconsider. Amazon declined to comment, and that very much means they are considering their options… Here is an interesting article regarding the financial sector, and the possibility of leaving the UK: Tech sector: and I am sure the list goes on. Why I find this interesting because Jobbik and the Eurosceptics in Hungary will witness first hand what could happen to Hungary if the leave or will be… Read more »
June 25, 2016 10:57 am
A little fact that highlight the hypocrisy of ‘us’ British: Whatever we might say about Orbán, he did it by the rules – he changed the constitution after he got a 2/3rds majority. Whereas in the UK, we’ve just voted to screw our future and endanger the EU (not to mention to make Putin very happy) by a simple majority – roughly half the country voted to Remain, but because slightly more people voted Leave, we’re out. No participation threshold, no two thirds majority, not even a minimum voting requirement (compare this to strike ballots – where the union has to get over 50% participation and over 40% of the vote before they can legally call a strike). All it took was for 37% of the eligible voters to vote Leave and we’re out. Good old British democracy and our infamous ‘unwritten constitution’, that we’re all told to be so proud of. (And in case anyone (Charlie?) is about to point out that Leave got 52% and Remain only 48%, therefore Leave won, end of – I’d like to suggest next time you cut something in two, instead of cutting it accurately in half, you cut it 52% and 48%… Read more »
June 25, 2016 12:55 pm

Paul, I would like to correct “roughly half the country voted to Remain” to “roughly half of those who decided to vote, voted to remain”. It is unfortunate that many did not bother, and it is unfortunate that many did not even understand what are the implications.

"What is the EU?" is the second top UK question on the EU since the #EURefResults were officially announced— GoogleTrends (@GoogleTrends) June 24, 2016

An other gem:
Man who voted for Leave says he thought his vote ‘wouldn’t count’ and is now ‘worried”

June 25, 2016 1:19 pm

A very bleak view of Britain’s future by “Cicero” whose comments (not only on Britains but also on Eastern Europe, especially Russia) are usually well informed – though he is a liberal … 🙂

June 25, 2016 2:49 pm

Our German magazine SPIEGEL has info on the reaction to Brexit in Eastern Europe – suddenly Orbán and Kaczinsky appaear as friends of the EU …
In the case of Poland the reason is obvious:
Of the 800 000 Polish workers in the UK (or GB or whatever you call it 😉 ) half could be sent home – they have no chance for residency …

And Fidesz is probably afraid that the EU will cut of the money flow.

PS and not too much OT:

My sister who lives with her English husband near London just called – her children are hurrying to renew/get German passports and her Irish son in law who works for a bank in London is afraid of losing his job!

And things looked so good – an Irish/English/German family with strong ties to Hungary …
Of course they all voted for Remain and are really angry about the outcome!

June 25, 2016 4:03 pm
Eva this is a very interesting statement: “What the majority of British voters were worried about, in addition to being subordinated to an outside power, was not so much the refugees and migrants who have reached the Continent but those “economic migrants” from East Central Europe who have settled in the British Isles in the last few years. The 350,000 Poles and the 150,000 Hungarians, for example. At least these are the official figures, though most likely the real numbers are higher.” I am sure you are referencing some type of polling data in relationship to British having greater concern about Central European economic migrants than to non-EU more often than not non- white and non-Christian refugees, migrants both poor and wealthy. If you recall where you got this information from I would be interested in a reference. The poling data on this issue I am looking at can be seen at This data is a little old and possibly Eva you have polling data that is more recent that contradicts it, but what this data showed about British attitudes was that immigration in general has consistently ranked in the top five most important issues as selected by the… Read more »
June 26, 2016 3:53 am

István – The last time I was in London, there were Hungarians working in every single pub and restaurant I visited. I spoke Hungarian all over the town with these people. There were Romanians all over the place – working.
There were Poles working at the desk of the British Library – speaking Polish with one another. The one who served me barely understood my request – his English was that “unique.”

There are no numbers on immigrants, because the border was open, and because, like the US, there is no personal i.d. in England. There is no requirement to register domicile with authorities. A Hungarian can simply go to England, through the fast lane for EU citizens, and disappear.

The border is far, far more open than the Mexican-American one.

Nobody knows how many E. Europeans are there.

English friends, who are not working-class, said this was unsustainable. That working-class Brits are infuriated, that their wages were being undercut and their chances of employment destroyed.

June 25, 2016 4:25 pm

Not t.oo much OT:

The EU politicians lead by Orbán’s nemesis Martin Schulz ask Britain to declare their desire to leave until Tuesday – and then bye bye!

Wonder how Cameron will react – and the British parliament of course which has to decide afaik

June 25, 2016 8:26 pm
Tragic result. It’s the end of the UK as we know it. The true implications could not be understood by a portion of UK voters, due to their circumstances and level of education + the remain campaign not communicating clearly on their level. The vote was swung due to Northern counties and cites voting leave, Sunderland, Leeds etc. On those voters part, it was a protest vote against big business, government in general and anger, their perception is: european people coming here, riding our benefits system, NHS, and grabbing our zero hours work contracts. I believe, as others said, a vote of this magnitude should have built in caveats enforced beforehand, voter turnout numbers, clear split majority, 60 /40. In regard of this article. All of the Hungarian parties interpretations are wrong and/ or spin, apart from the MSZP party quote. It had nothing to do with migrants, which a word less used in the UK, refugees or economic migrants are correct. The UK, unlike Hungary, is compassionate, sending billions of pounds in aid, globally. The Visegrád 4 countries, especially Poland and Hungary are now especially worried. The numbers of Poles and Hungarians quoted as living in the Uk is… Read more »
June 26, 2016 7:11 am

I find the most frightening thing in this post to be “Her informants also believe that with the departure of anti-Russian Great Britain Orbán will have an easier time convincing the EU to put an end to the anti-Russian sanctions. ”

How quickly they forget.


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