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Jun 24, 2016 - Zoltán Kovács

PM Orbán, following Brexit vote, calls on Brussels to listen to the voice of the people

“Brussels must listen to the voice of the people. This is the biggest takeaway from yesterday’s decision,” said Prime Minister Viktor Orbán commenting on the result of Thursday’s referendum in which voters in the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union.

As markets wobble this morning and the pound and the euro drop in value to currencies outside the European common market, Prime Minister Orbán reassured us that politicians have a plan B. Speaking during his regular, Friday morning radio interview, the prime minister emphasized that Europe’s failure to provide real solutions to the pressure of illegal migration on the European community played a “decisive and definitive” role In the Brexit referendum result.

PM Orbán placed a paid announcement in Great Britain’s Daily Mail on the referendum on Monday, a news outlet widely regarded as having sided with the leave campaign. “The decision is yours,” said the text of the statement, “but I would like you to know that Hungary is proud to stand with you as a member of the European Union.” Today, we know that the United Kingdom voted to leave. Hungary, however, is not on its way out.

“Why are we in? Because we believe in a strong European Union,” PM Orbán said, echoing the motto from Hungary’s EU Presidency in 2011, but “Europe can only [remain] strong if, regarding issues with huge significance like migration, it can give answers that do not weaken it, but strengthen it. The EU failed to give these answers; moreover, it gave contrary answers.”

“The markets live for today, politics live for the future,” Orbán answered when asked about today’s panic on European markets. Every politician had prepared for Brexit to happen, he said, and it is “the responsibility of the prime ministers of Hungary and every other nation” to be ready for challenging times. But it would be “irresponsible to say more” at this point, before today’s consultations between EU leaders, within the V4 group and in light of the upcoming EU Summit on Tuesday.

“The defining issue of the debate in Great Britain, and especially in England, was how will they be able to keep their island? How can they remain who they are? How can they protect themselves against [illegal] migrants and migration, and are they satisfied with the politics and protection the Union has to offer in this case? I feel that they were not,” Orbán concluded.

The prime minister reminded us that a lengthy legal procedure will now follow, and it is likely that the United Kingdom will base its relations with the European Union on bilateral agreements, instead of membership.

While it will take time to come to terms with the outcome of yesterday’s vote, Hungary remains committed to carrying out its own referendum, the one against Brussels' mandatory migrant resettlement quota system. As the prime minister has said many times before, "the Hungarian people's right to decide on their own future cannot be taken away." This position has not changed.

At the same time, Hungary remains interested in a strong Europe. Let’s hope that Brussels listens to the people’s voice and the leaders of our continent continue to build a European Union where strong nation states are not seen as obstacles but as foundations to a strong Europe.