Caitlin Jones, Deputy Head of Mission, arrived in Hungary on 11 November 2015 and has been carrying out her diplomatic duties here ever since. We spoke with her about a very hot topic just now, Brexit.
We also talked about her career as a diplomat from Wales, starting from the UK, through Cuba and Guatemala to the capital of Hungary. And we inquired about the secret to the unrelenting popularity of the British Embassy in Hungary.
Let’s cut straight to the chase: if we look at current affairs, Brits living in Hungary are almost certainly occupied by concerns surrounding Brexit. With Hungarians in the UK are in a similar position. Could you please give us some guidance and a timeline or to-do list on what they should do?
I’m grateful for the opportunity to be able to talk about Brexit for a little bit because every opportunity we have to get information out to Brits living here in Hungary is important to us.
We held one town hall meeting for Brits living here, that was in January, to explain where we are on Brexit and to give them an opportunity to ask us questions We will be holding another one before the summer holidays, when we’ve got something substantive to say, so people should be ready for that and look out for it if they want to come along.
Deputy Head of Mission Caitlin Jones and Head of Policy Team Tom Whitehead talked about the rights of UK citizens after the UK leaves the EU. If you have any more questions, please don't hesitate to send us a private message. For more information please follow the UK in Hungary facebook page, the Road to Brexit page and check the gov.uk page: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/advice-for-british-nationals-travelling-and-living-in-europe
Közzétette: UK in Hungary – 2017. december 19., kedd
I think the main messages are that from the very start of negotiations Mrs May was absolutely clear that giving Brits in the EU and EU citizens in Britain certainty about their futures was an absolute priority and we’ve worked very hard to make that the first thing that we focus on in negotiations. 1
It was also the first thing that we reached a deal on, so at the December and March European councils we reached successive deals ensuring that Brits who are living in the EU on the 31st of December 2020 will effectively be able to reside in that member state if they wish to do so, on the same terms. And this of course applies to EU nationals in the UK as well.
Clearly there’s a lot of detail underneath that, but this is what a lot of negotiations adds up to. What I would say is that lives will continue broadly as they do now for those people who choose to stay here after the 31st of December 2020, but there will be some kind of registration process. In fact, there is now, because Brits have to register for an “Igazolvány” (editor’s note: Hungarian registration card and address card).
British citizens should complete the legal registration process, so there will still be some kind of registration. And we’re making it a priority to talk to Hungarian authorities to clarify what that process will be.
The other important thing is that any Brits living here who want to stay here after the 31st of December 2020 should make sure now that they are properly registered in the country.
I think there may be some Brits who have sort of come here on a fairly casual basis and haven’t completed the legal registration process, so I would encourage them to register legally in the country.
What does the whole registration process involve?
Well, this is what we are asking the Hungarians to clarify for us.
So it’s not clarified yet.
Not yet. We’re working with the Hungarians, encouraging them to produce some information to clarify this for Brits in Hungary as soon as possible. They’re hoping to publish a leaflet on it. I’m not sure exactly when, but they hope it will be soon. One of the things that we would like to do when we have our next town hall meeting is to have somebody from the Hungarian authorities there who can explain the process to Brits.
I’m sure this information will be available on the Embassy’s website.
We will have a link at the very least. Our Facebook page is the most useful source, UK in Hungary on Facebook.
How about Hungarians living in the UK?
Same for Hungarians living in the UK. It’s a reciprocal deal, so any Hungarian living in the UK legally on the 31st of December 2020 will be able to stay there broadly on the same basis as they do now. It’s as simple as that.
So there’s nothing to be scared of.
Indeed. Again, there will be a registration process. We have been working on our registration process for the past 18 months, the home office are in charge of that and they determined that it’s going to be as smooth and as seamless as possible. It’s going to be digitalised. They want to make it easy for people.
There will be a digital registration process which we hope will go live later this year. But people should not be worried. Our aim has always been that people should be able to continue their lives broadly as they live them now.
Should UK citizens living in Hungary start preparing now? Should they start the process?
Well, they can’t really because the Hungarians haven’t said what they need to do.
So we’re still at an early stage.
Yes, we’ve reached the agreement in principle. Now all of the different countries have to think about how they’re going to implement that, and what Brits and other EU nationals will actually have to do in practice in order to register or whatever. We’re at that stage. All of the countries around the EU are defining the processes.
When do you think this can be finished?
In Hungary the Hungarian government has been optimistic that they will be able to clarify this soon. I don’t know when, and I don’t want to speak for them either.
We are not in charge of this in Hungary, but they want to do it as soon as they can.
Let’s change the subject slightly. This Embassy is one of the most popular ever. What’s your secret?
Thank you very much, that’s very nice of you to say. I think embassies always have different characters in them and different people at the helm at different times. At the moment I think we are particularly fortunate to have an ambassador who loves getting out and about and meeting people and doing things. We have a very good relationship with Hungary, which we’re very proud of.
Our two governments have a lot in common and I think that means that overall the relationship is good and the embassy is really good. We do a lot of good work here and our social media channels for example are full of lots of interesting information for people to keep up with.
Perhaps there are some areas which we haven’t attributed so much importance to when the UK was in the EU, and now as a result of the referendum we will need to look at. For example, we are taking more interest in culture and people to people relations.
With an eye to Brexit, when we are no longer a member of the European Union, we have to have really strong relationships in place with EU countries to replace what we previously did through the EU, because we will no longer be able to conduct all our business through the EU.
So, we are in the process of building up those relationships and building up our bilateral relationship with Hungary, the direct relationship between the UK and Hungary, so that it’s strong across a number of areas, to replace what we used to do through the EU. We are very keen that our trading relationship should grow and strengthen. People to people links around culture and education is another area where we want it to grow, so that, I think, also accounts for an increase in visibility, shall we say, of this embassy.
Does it come from personalities?
Ambassador Iain Lindsay is a great personality and he brings a lot to the embassy and to the country. He represents Britain very well here. We’ve got great members of staff across the embassy. I very much enjoy engaging as well. The joy of being a diplomat is being able to get out there and meet people and do things, so we’re very lucky to be able to do that.
What are the most enjoyable parts of your job here in Hungary?
There’s so much. British civil servants are politically neutral, so we are not allowed to be aligned with any political party in our work. So in my job, I have no politics. But of course, when an agenda collides with my own personal opinion then I will enjoy it a bit more.
I think one of those agendas is empowering women and empowering girls. Where we have done a lot of work here in the Embassy, particularly around empowering young, perhaps underprivileged girls, encouraging them to believe in themselves and to think big, to be ambitious, to work hard and to do well in society.
That is a priority for the British government and the foreign secretary currently has an initiative around girls’ education, a worldwide initiative which is designed to ensure that every single girl across the world should have at least twelve years of quality education in her childhood.
And that’s not just in the girls’ interest, it’s in the interests of the countries that the girls belong to and it’s in our interests as well. The single best way to reduce conflict and improve stability in the world is to make sure that every girl gets twelve years of quality education. So it’s this kind of agenda that I feel we can make a difference with that I’m really happy to work on.
Are there activities in Budapest that are related to this agenda?
Once a year we have. We focus on this in March because International Women’s Day falls in March. So generally every March for the last three or four years we have had a speed mentoring event which we host at the ambassador’s residence.
In fact, I’ve been hosting it because I’m a woman and my predecessor hosted it because she was a woman. And we invite girls. We try to target girls from less than privileged backgrounds who have an interest in doing well in life. We invite them to meet a selection of successful women from society, successful Hungarian entrepreneurs, female entrepreneurs, successful journalists, successful people from civil society.
Antónia Mészáros for example, who was formally in ATV and who is now the head of UNICEF here, was one of our mentors last time. And successful female diplomats too. The girls sign up to see a certain number of mentors, they spend ten minutes with each across the evening, and a bell rings in-between sessions, the girls get up, move on to the next mentor – it’s just like speed dating, except it’s speed mentoring.
The girls get so much out of it. But the mentors get so much out of it as well. The whole evening is so rewarding for everybody. And the mentors frequently ask if they can come back because they’ve enjoyed it so much. And honestly, the girls find it really inspiring and empowering.
How do you choose the participating girls?
We work with various organisations in Hungary to identify the girls.
What are the Embassy’s upcoming events, activities?
We’re running British Month until the 1st of May on Classic radio about UK culture and education, and it’s for a whole month. There’ll also be some interesting interviews, for example there was one with the ambassador opening the month and with former ambassador to London, János Csák, and Academy Award winner Kristóf Deák, who studied in the UK.