Ambassador Iain Lindsay and Minister of State Sir Alan Duncan in the opening ceremony of the Embassy of the UK in Budapest, 13.10.2017 (Photo: Attila Béres / Magyar Nemzet)

“I’m loyal to May, to Johnson and to my party” — Sir Alan Duncan

I’ve interviewed Sir Alan Duncan, Minister of State for Europe and the Americas at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office on last Friday in Budapest. He was one of the distinguished guests who opened the new building of the Embassy of the UK in Budapest. In the interview — the original Hungarian version appeared in the daily Magyar Nemzet — we spoke about Mr Duncan’s loyalty to his colleagues, when did he give up his prime ministerial dreams and what he thinks about the Brexit negotiations.

– Michel Barnier said last week that the Brexit negotiation has stalled. Will the Brexit happen anyway?
– There were some ambiguous messages coming out from Brussels last week. So we’ve done the fifth round, and there will be a European Council meeting in a few days. Our clear policy is to continue these negotiations so that Britains departure from the EU does happen. And our ambition is to make sure we have a sensible deal which is good for both sides and not one which is harmful to both sides. That’s the plan.

– Prime Minister Theresa May speaks about the transition period like it was a settled thing. Is the European Union open to this kind of solution?
– Look, I think the talk of the transition makes sense. This is a very-very complicated process, and we’ve got forty years worth of laws which need to be disencountered. And we are going to need for instance new arrangements for our customs, for our borders, for international sanctions, agriculture, fisheries, all of that kind of staff. So that will take time to us to implement. So we can have an agreement and then an implementation period of transition. So logically that is likely to be part of any deal.

– And what will happen in the transition period to the workers like the Hungarians living in the UK?
– This just not the transition period. It’s anyway what’s gonna happen. We can give you very firm commitments on that, because the Prime Minister has made it very clear that the citizens right of the people who are in the UK already and so we hope the UK’s citizens in other countries will be guaranteed. So if you are there already, you are okay.

– Is it agreed with the EU as well?
– Well, nothing is agreed. But I think anyone can see that this is a very constructive proposal from the UK, designed to help the negotiation’s progress. I can’t believe anyone is against it.

– Here is a funny question. Are you Team May or Team Johnson?
– (laughs) It’s very simple. I’m loyal to Theresa May, loyal to Boris Johnson and loyal to my party.

– Will these internal conflicts which popped up within the Conservative Party weaken Britain’s position in the Brexit negotiations?
– We have a lively democracy, and that’s why we are one of the strongest countries in the world.

– Do you want to be Prime Minister one day?
– (laughs) I think I gave up on that on my 30th Birthday.

– Did you hear about the so-called Soros Plan which is in the centre of the Hungarian government’s rhetoric nowadays?
– I’m going to stay out of that, I don’t think it’s for me to comment on all these things.

– Okay but I have another question about that. How does the public see Mr George Soros in Britain?
– I don’t think the public has many views about him. All they’re remember about him is the exchange rate mechanism, that’s what they associate when they hear the name.

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