The British Embassy hosted a second Brexit Town Hall meeting last Wednesday, 9th January at the Budapest Marriott Hotel. Around 200 UK citizens and other interested parties attended what turned out to be a lively meeting, with several UK citizens taking the opportunity to voice concerns on a range of Brexit-related subjects.
The United Kingdom government was represented by Her Majesty’s Ambassador, Iain Lindsay, while Szabolcs Takács, Minister of State for EU Policies, spoke for the Hungarian government.
First Ambassador Lindsay presented an update on the UK government’s position on Brexit, a summary of which can be found here. Then State Secretary Takács presented the Hungarian government’s stance. He started by stating that the Hungarian government respects the result of the 2016 referendum but also regrets the decision that the UK will leave the EU. The Hungarian government stated strongly to the European Commission that where possible the deal done with the UK should not be seen as a punishment.
The next statement was perhaps one of the most key for UK citizens currently in Hungary, or for those currently planning to relocate:
In the event that the current deal between the UK and EU is signed, UK citizens will still be allowed to move to Hungary and establish legal residence as if they were EU/EEA citizens, until 31st December 2020. In the event of no deal, any UK citizen currently in Hungary, must make sure they hold the necessary registration card (regisztrációs igazolás) and address card (lakcím kártya) by 29th March 2019, after which any UK citizen entering Hungary will be handled under new, as yet confirmed emergency legislation, which Hungary would need to pass. More details on this.
State Secretary Takács concluded his speech by saying that the Hungarian government very much appreciates and values the UK community in Hungary and does not wish that a single UK citizen would leave Hungary as a result of Brexit.
There then followed a Q&A session. The following is a selection of the key questions the participants asked:
A lady who is currently 8 months’ pregnant asked whether in the event of a no-deal Brexit, her right to access state healthcare facilities would be lost. State Secretary Takács assured her that even in the event of no deal, her right to receive state healthcare would be retained. It was not clear if this was only relating to the ongoing care for her current pregnancy, or if healthcare rights for UK citizens would be preserved in a general sense.
A gentleman asked if his UK driver’s licence would continue to be valid after 29th March. State Secretary Takács advised that in any case, by law anyone holding a UK licence should exchange that for a Hungarian one, by the time they have resided in Hungary for a year. This applies to both EU and non-EU citizens. He advised that anyone holding a UK licence now, should strongly consider exchanging it for a Hungarian one before 29th March.
A gentleman observed that he holds a residence card with an expiry date later in 2019 and asked if he should exchange this for a registration card. State Secretary Takács advised that the gentleman should exchange this card before 29th March as a precaution. [It should be noted that our immigration partner, Inter Relocation, took issue with this point, as it contradicts the advice it received from the immigration authority. Inter Relocation has requested clarification on this point.]
At the conclusion of the meeting, participants were informed that should they have any further questions or need additional clarification, that they should contact UK in Hungary, via the UK in Hungary website or via one of the embassy’s social media channels.