BBC Newsnight presenter Evan Davis tore into Hungary’s foreign minister on Tuesday evening, accusing his government of promoting an “inaccurate slur” against the United Kingdom about immigration.
In an interview from New York, Péter Szijjártó was asked to justify a leaflet delivered to Hungary’s voters which claimed there are “no-go zones” in the UK in which non-migrants can not enter.
Hungary is holding a referendum on whether to accept mandatory EU quotas for relocating migrants.
Davis asked Szijjártó: “There is a leaflet in your referendum campaign, a government leaflet, and it tells the Hungarian people, in advocating less migration, there are several hundred no-go areas in Europe where migrants have taken over. A dozen in the UK. Do you believe that claim?”
Hungary’s foreign minister said the claim was based on “open reports”, “official reports” from the police and from “the news”.
He said: “There are no-go zone in Europe and we don’t want no-go zones in Hungary.”
An irritated Davis told Szijjártó: “You think there are no-go zones in the UK? A dozen of them? Because you mark them in Peterborough, London, Southampton. You’ve been to the UK right, you’ve been to London?”
Szijjártó said he had visited, adding “I like London a lot, no problem.”
The Newsnight interviewer pressed: “You still believe there are no-go areas in London where you cant go because the migrants have taken over?
Davis added: “This is ridiculous, you can use your eyes, it’s just ridiculous.”
“Did you talk to the British government before you published this about the UK? It’s a slur on the UK. By the way, an inaccurate slur on the UK, did you talk to the British government? Or even your embassy in London?”
The leaflet, Davis said, was “false and defamatory of a nation”.
Szijjártó said “of course” he used his eyes. “I usually do,” he said. And admitted the UK ambassador to Hungary had also complained about the leaflet.
The Hungarian government is not the first to say there are “no-go” zones in London. Donald Trump has previously made similar claims.
Luxembourg has called for Hungary to be expelled from the EU to punish the hostile attitude towards migrants taken by Viktor Orbán’s government.