Britain”s government has condemned comments made by Viktor Orban about Muslims and migrants on the eve of a bilateral meeting between the Hungarian leader and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
In a statement, No. 10 Downing Street said that Orban’s 2018 comment to a German newspaper about “Muslim invaders” and his later description of migrants as “a poison” were “divisive and wrong”.
It said that Johnson would not shy away from raising human rights issues with the Hungarian leader.
Friday’s meeting in London takes place as Hungary is set to take the presidency, later this year, of the so-called Visegrad group of Central European nations.
Britain’s opposition Labour Party has said Orban’s visit undermines the values the UK government claims to defend.
Shadow Foreign Secretary, Lisa Nandy, questioned on Twitter whether Johnson would “challenge the Hungarian PM on his appalling track record.”
A government spokesman said that co-operation with Hungary was vital “to the UK’s prosperity and security” and insisted that Britain’s interests in the region would be promoted during the talks.
In 2020, Orban pressed the EU to lift sanctions on Belarus where, last week, a flight was diverted in order to enable the arrest of opposition journalist Roman Protasevich and his girlfriend, Sofia Sapega.
Orban, a Euro-sceptic and ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, also blocked the European Union from issuing statements criticising China for its actions in Hong Kong.
Downing Street defended the visit, with Johnson’s spokesman saying: “As president of the Visegrad group of Central European nations later this year, co-operation with Hungary is vital to the UK’s prosperity and security.”
He said the meeting would “promote UK interests in these areas and discuss issues in the wider region”.
Johnson is no stranger to disparaging comments about Muslims either. In 2018, he compared women wearing the burqa to letterboxes. He has since “apologised for any offence caused.”