SALZBURG, Austria — The EU shouldn’t “punish” the U.K. because it is leaving the bloc, Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said Thursday.
“I’m very positive … I don’t like to … punish the Brits just because they have decided to leave,” Orbán told reporters on his way into an informal meeting of EU leaders at which Brexit was one of the main items on the agenda.
“It’s a great nation, so we should have a fair approach to have a good deal with them on how to continue,” he said, stressing that this was “a very general approach.”
Orbán said some in the EU want to punish London for its decision, but “there are some others, like Hungary, who don’t like that kind of approach and would like to have a fair Brexit.” He then praised EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier for “doing a very good job.”
While he was speaking to reporters, Orbán was interrupted by French President Emmanuel Macron who came over to shake hands. The two have become the figureheads of opposing camps ahead of next May’s European election, with Orbán leading the populists and Macron the liberals.
Macron’s predecessor, François Hollande, said just after the Brexit vote in 2016 that “there must be a threat, there must be a risk, there must be a price” to be paid for choosing to leave the EU.
Paris has since distanced itself from the punishment line. “It’s never good news, you should never humiliate, you should never punish,” French government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux said in February.