MEPs belonging to the European Parliament Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs voted to launch disciplinary action against Hungary – which would eventually lead to the country being stripped of voting rights within the EU.
But the Conservative Party has been accused of derailing their own legacy after its MEP in the committee voted against kickstarting the procedures.
The Guardian reports that the decision was described as “an exit from European values” by a leading politician from a rival party.
Meanwhile, Hungary’s Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto was in London, speaking to delegates at Chatham House about Hungary’s stance on the bloc’s open migration policy and commended Italy’s “game changing” policy on the EU’s open migrant policy.
The vote on Monday was seen as a symbolic move against Mr Orbán.
The contested leader was re-elected for a third term in April – with international commentators saying his party’s campaign was characterised by intimidating and xenophobic rhetoric.
But a vote is the first step in stripping Hungary of its rights. A final decision to launch proceedings against Hungary required a two-thirds majority in the European parliament.
If a majority of MEPs vote in September, ministers will be obliged to consider whether there is a serious and persistent breach of the EU’s basic democratic values in Hungary.
Sophie in ’t Veld of the Dutch Democrats 66 party, who is on the committee, said: “This is a damning indictment of the state of British European policy and completely destroys any credibility the Tories might have left.
“Even Conservative governments of the recent past were always promotors of democracy and the rule of law in central and eastern Europe, but in providing cover for Orbán’s descent into authoritarianism, they have trampled on this legacy.
“Voting with Orbán is the true Tory Brexit: the exit from European values.”
Conservative home affairs spokesman Daniel Dalton told the Guardian: “The extremely one-sided report I voted against today was an inappropriate attempt by the European parliament to insert itself into domestic political battles.”
In the same session, Conservative MEPs also voted against similar action against Poland – which fuelled concerns over a Brexit government sidelining democratic value to gain favour with autocratic governments.
Mr Dalton said: “Recent attempts to raise domestic controversies to a European level are both wrong and counterproductive, alienating many citizens who feel their countries are being unfairly targeted by the European institutions.”
At 6pm BST on Monday, Mr Szijjarto delivered a speech in London outlining the challenges arising from foreign policy in the EU bloc, including security, migration and transatlantic relationships.
Mr Szijjarto told how Hungary – much like Italy – is opposed to the EU’s open migration policy, saying: “There are countries that act that migration is the best answer regarding a better market.
“We respect that. But please, don’t put that on us. We don’t think the same in Hungary.”
He continued to point at the security risks posed by the “phenomenon of migration” throughout Europe, claiming that the Hungarian Government obligation of protecting borders “is something we should fufil”.
He told the conference: “We look at migration as an issue with a huge security component.
“Sometimes, someone has to answer the question: how was it possible to let one million come to the European Union without knowing who they are, without knowing their plans, without knowing their affiliations that could threaten Europe?”