The Tories were the only governing conservative party in western Europe to support Viktor Orbán in the European Parliament’s vote on the rule of law in Hungary.
A thank you letter from a far right leader for showing solidarity is not something I would be proud for my party to be associated with. It's astonishing the level The Tories are prepared to stoop to in order to get support for their failed Brexit plan.British Member of the European Parliament representing the Labour Party
At euronews, we believe all views matter. To better understand that vote, its reasons and possible consequences, we asked British members of the European Parliament from different political parties to share their perspective on this subject by answering our questions.
Here are the answers of Mary Honeyball, Labour MEP for London:
Euronews: The UK is the only Western European country whose almost all representatives of the ruling party in the EP voted against the Sargentini report on the situation in Hungary. As an opposition MEP, what do you think of this choice of your Conservative colleagues?
Mary Honeyball: Before considering the actions of any MEP's or political parties within the European Parliament it's important to reflect on some of the accusations made against Hungary in Judith Sargentini's report. The report concerns Hungary's "systemic threat" to the EU's fundamental principles. It highlights alleged abuse of migrants, inappropriate treatment by border authorities and restrictive access to asylum procedures. Furthermore, there are concerns of restrictions to freedom of the press and the report contains accusations of corruption and conflicts of interests as well as constitutional and electoral concerns. As vice chair of the women's committee I was very troubled to learn of the reports claim that inadequate protection is given for women victims of domestic violence. Considering the extensive nature of the somewhat alarming claims it's astonishing that any politician living in a western democracy could possibly vote in any other way than to show support for the reports findings. The very fact that article 7 is used so rarely should be an indication of the seriousness of Hungary's breach. The adherence to democratic western principles is fundamental to membership of the European Union. Any threat to that must be addressed fully. So to vote down something which is so obviously contravening this, is absurd.
Euronews: Do you agree with those who say that the main reason for such a vote was Mr Orbán’s support in Brexit talks?
Mary Honeyball: It is a terrible stain on the UK that some British Conservative MEP's voted to support Orban and call off the triggering of article 7.
It was a disgraceful move to align with the Hungarian Government in this way. The only, rather cynical, explanation is that it was as a result of Orban's support for the British Government over Brexit. I would further argue that, voting in this way, was an unnecessarily antagonistic by British Conservative MEP's who, acting in this way, show increasing similarity to UKIP who, it is well documented, almost always vote against progressive EU legislation in an effort to maintain its ideological antipathy to anything that's European.
Euronews: What is your opinion on the situation in Hungary and, in particular, on the rule of law in that country compared to other EU members?
Mary Honeyball: The European Union is founded on western democratic principles and ideology. Each and every member state signed up to participate in the European Union, and as such it must adhere to the principles. If such a flagrant disregard of the rules occurs then it's absolutely right that article 7 should be invoked.
Euronews: Do you agree with what Viktor Orbán wrote in his letter to British Conservative MEPs, saying that the Sargentini report “is a verdict against Hungary and the Hungarian people” and not a critic of his government and his policies?
Mary Honeyball: No. Orban's "thank you" letter to British Tories rather cements my words above. A thank you letter from a far right leader for showing solidarity is not something I would be proud for my party to be associated with. The Tory MEPs support for him is in exchange for his support for Brexit. It's astonishing the level The Tories are prepared to stoop to in order to get support for their failed Brexit plan.
They were the only western governing party in Western Europe to vote in support of the Hungarian Government and it's a shameful that they chose to make such a move.
Mary Honeyball is a British Member of the European Parliament representing the Labour Party.
Opinions expressed in View articles are those of the author.