Downing Street condemns Viktor Orban comments ahead of meeting with Johnson

Downing Street has condemned as “divisive and wrong” comments made by Hungarian leader Viktor Orban ahead of a meeting with Boris Johnson.

Right-wing populist Mr Orban will visit Downing Street on Friday for talks with the PM, and No 10 said Mr Johnson would not back away from bringing up issues surrounding human rights.

Mr Orban has been criticised for remarks on “Muslim invaders” and describing migrants as “a poison”.

“On all human rights issues we do not shy away from raising them, the PM has condemned those specific comments which were divisive and wrong,” Mr Johnson’s official spokesman said on Thursday.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson
Prime Minister Boris Johnson (Luciana Guerra/PA)

But Mr Orban’s visit could also put under strain the UK’s relationship with the rest of the European Union, where he has been accused of eroding democracy, the rule of law and press freedoms.

Euro-sceptic Mr Orban previously praised Mr Johnson for delivering Brexit, is a close ally of Russian President Vladamir Putin, and has twice blocked the EU from issuing statements condemning China for actions in Hong Kong.

And last year he pushed the EU to lift sanctions on Belarus, where a Ryanair flight was diverted last week so authorities could arrest a prominent journalist who has been critical of the regime.

Labour’s shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy said Mr Johnson should urge Mr Orban to take “a robust stance towards the Lukashenko regime in Belarus and Putin’s Russia”.

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And she said the Hungarian leader – who she described as one of Europe’s “most regressive” – undermined “the values the UK Government says it wants to defend”.

She said: “When Boris Johnson meets with his Hungarian counterpart, we expect him to challenge the repeated attempts to undermine democratic values.

“Anything less than a robust rejection of these acts is tantamount to rolling out the red carpet.”

However, Downing Street defended the visit.

Mr Johnson’s spokesman said: “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”.