Analyst: Orbán can reap political benefit from Brexit

History

Although the Brexit vote and U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron’s resignation might have short-term negative impacts for Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, growing Euroscepticism could bode well for Orbán’s political future, Edit Zgut, an analyst at Political Capital, told the Budapest Business Journal after Friday’s developments.

“In the short-term, the Hungarian head of government faces negative consequences as a result of Brexit and, especially, Cameron’s resignation, as he lost an important ally in promoting national sovereignty at the union’s negotiating table,” Zgut said.

However, she added, if “Euroscepticism becomes significantly more prominent, in the mid-term – possibly as soon as within one-to-two years – as a result of the strengthening of anti-EU parties, Orbán (pictured) might gain further influence on the continent as a Eurosceptic leader”.

Zgut noted that the Hungarian government does not really want to leave the European Union, but said that it benefits from a Eurosceptic stance. She said this is the reason for the government to call a referendum in autumn that would allow Hungarians to show their opposition to the EU plan to make countries shelter a certain quota of asylum seekers.

“Despite fiercely anti-EU rhetoric, the Hungarian government is well aware of the fact that isolation for Hungary would make little sense on the economic level, since Hungary is a net beneficiary of that integration,” Zgut said. “The Hungarian government cannot allow itself to openly promote Hunxit or anti-EU sentiments, but with the mandatory quota referendum it can continue its freedom fight against Brussels.”

The analyst noted that the Hungarian government “has already sought to link Brexit with this referendum on the rhetorical level, saying that British people have been fed up with the EU’s migration policy and Brussels could not defend them from migrants”.

In fact, Zgut said, “Pro-Brexit forces have been campaigning mainly against Eastern European migrants, not refugees, so this is a question of free movement, not common refugee policy.”

Zgut said that governing party Fidesz could be using the issue of Brexit “as a tool for its own aspirations”, adding that the “crisis situation is also useful for the government to divert attention from domestic corruption scandals”. 

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