Anti-Brexit protest: thousands march two years after referendum

Peoples Vote demonstration in London culminates with speeches in Parliament Square

A roar of pro-European chants rose up above Pall Mall and across the royal parks as tens of thousands attended an anti-Brexit march marking the second anniversary of the EU referendum.

Some marched on Saturday in the hope of stopping Brexit, some just wanted to alter the mood music to help change the direction of government travel, but young and old, Labour and Tory, they were all united in their pro-European passion.

Police on foot, in riot vans in the backstreets and in helicopters were on standby in case of a clash between the Peoples Vote march and a pro-Brexit march starting less than two miles away at Victoria station, which was due to end a few hundred metres away at the other end of the Palace of Westminster.

Nicolas Maclean, a former adviser to Margaret Thatcher, marched with a group of about a dozen men and woman brandishing large Tories against Brexit placards in the Peoples Vote march.

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June 23, 2018

She would be turning in her grave, he said. She said one of her greatest achievements in Europe was Britain taking the lead in setting up the single market and now some people in government want us to leave. It is an absolute disaster.

An estimated 100,000 have so far taken part in the Peoples Vote march, which culminated in a rally at Parliament Square, with speeches from politicians David Lammy, Anna Soubry and Vince Cable.

Young and old, Tory and Labour, all were united in their opposition to Brexit. Photograph: Wiktor Szymanowicz/Barcroft Images

Stuart Thomson, 50, from Worcestershire, was with a group of veterans standing close to the Crimean war memorial on Pall Mall. He called Brexit the most cowardly thing this country has ever done.

What we are trying to do is stop the understanding that veterans are all patriots for Brexit thats not the case. We are patriots and we are for the European Union, said Thomson, who is co-founder of Veterans for Europe.

We dont like the way European citizens have been treated; a lot of service men are married to European citizens who are being forced to leave.

A colleague of mine served in the RAF, married an Italian lady and moved to the West Midlands with his wife. They had three children and she was one of the first people to receive a letter from the Home Office telling her to prepare to leave.

Nearby stood Sophie Atherton, 15, from Essex, who was with her parents on her first demonstration. Im here today not only to show my support for the rest of Europe but also because I feel like my future has been ripped away from me, she said.

I want to be able to work in Europe freely; I want European people to have the freedom to work here. I feel that young peoples future has been ripped away from them and I didnt even have the chance to vote for that.

Graham Bailey, 28, from Swindon, said: Europe is a good idea because it puts everyone on the same team so we dont fight any more. Theres been over 65 years of peace between members states and thats worth defending.

At the rally, the politicians, public figures and activists who led it gathered on stage. Wheres Jeremy Corbyn? the crowd began chanting, pointing to the absence of the Labour leader.

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‘Where’s Jeremy Corbyn?’: anti-Brexit protesters chant in London video

Ed de Mesquita, another Tory remainer, said he could hardly read the Telegraph any more because it was so doggedly supporting a hard Brexit.

He said: Very often I find it difficult to get through an article. Even when Airbus says its threatening to close down some of its operations, they say you are moaning. This is the phony war. It hasnt happened. We havent left the EU yet. When it gets close the City, many manufacturers are going to leave.

Its not going to be OK. I tell you what is the worst thing, its the legacy we are going to leave the young people.

lisa o’carroll (@lisaocarroll)

Tories Against Brexit – I cant read the Telegraph in Brexit any more. They are still doggedly supporting Brexit. I cant willingly see the economy of my country damaged thats why Im marching – Edward Se Mesquitahttps://t.co/9NlDzBbDgK

June 23, 2018

Next to him was Neil Carmichael, a former Conservative party MP for Stroud. I think we need a rethink about the direction of travel about Brexit. Weve seen from Airbus and BMW and many other countries that the risks are absolutely huge if we dont go to a reconsideration stage, he said.

As a samba band drummed its way through Pall Mall and on through Trafalgar Square where an Eid celebration was taking place, people from all over the country and from Europe hoped to drive home their message.

lisa o’carroll (@lisaocarroll)

Tories Against Brexit in march including former MP Neil Carmichael and former Thatcher aide Nicolas Maclean pic.twitter.com/MxDlcYTKOD

June 23, 2018

Oli Aizcorbe, 10, from London said: I think Brexit sucks. His 11-year-old friend Stevie Robinson said she feared for her future. Because it has such an impact on young peoples future, I dont think Cameron should have just put it to the public like he did. I am very angry about it, she said.

Hazel Bergiel, a Briton who lives in France, had come from her home in Chevreuse to take part. Ive lived in France for the last 35 years and I wouldnt have voted to leave but I was denied a vote, she said. Im very much anti-Brexit, but Im still very much British. I only have one passport even though I live there and this is why Im here, really to support the movement.

The division Brexit was creating was personal for some people in attendance. Grazia Valentino, who lives in Paris and is also British, said the loss of free movement would place a barrier in her marriage.

People hold up placards on the march Photograph: Wiktor Szymanowicz/Barcroft Images

My husband lives here and I live in Paris. Were on the Eurostar regularly and weve been doing that for 20 years, she said. Ive really claimed my full freedom of movement rights and Im going to be separated from my family who live in Italy and my husband in the UK.

Chris Berry, wearing a British husband EU-blue T-shirt, stood with his partner, Maria, wearing a Slovak wife matching T-shirt, as they held aloft a collage of pro-Brexit newspaper mastheads with the headline enemies of the people.

Berry, from Worcestershire, was angry that his future was in limbo simply because he fell in love with a woman from the continent. Even with the settled status details published the other day, were still not certain what is going to happen, he said.

His wife said: We are in a constant state of uncertainty and although it is probably going to be all right, we dont know for sure. Our mortgage is up for renewal shortly and I could be deemed a risky customer.

Janet and James Sheerin from Newcastle upon Tyne been campaigning for the last two years. We are here to support people getting a final vote. If there is no deal it makes it even more important. People never agreed to have a disaster, said Mr Sheerin.

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Sol Aizcorbe, her son Olii and friend Stevie on Peoples Vote march pic.twitter.com/SkdP1i3XP2

June 23, 2018

Simon Allison, the organiser of Tories Against Brexit, described them as a reasonably high-powered group of ex-parliamentarians and political advisers.

As a former investment banker and CEO, there is nothing worse than going into negotiations without a backstop you dont have. We dont have the components in place and the government keeps fighting to maintain a line that doesnt exist.

Dominic Robinson said it was more important than ever that the UK stayed close to Europe. It is hard to imagine European countries wanting to fall out and go to war, but with the rise of rightwing governments there is some prospect of that in 20 or 30 years time if we fragment Europe more.

The pro-Brexit march attracted a wide range of groups, from Ukip supporters to the alt-right White Pendragons and Generation Identity.

The mood among the pro-Brexit marchers was one of anger and defiance as far-right groups such as The White Pendragons and For Britain took their place alongside Veterans and Peoples Party and Ukip with the sound of God Save the Queen and Free Tommy booming through the streets.

But many melted away as a long succession of speakers took to the platform with just a few thousand supporters left at the rally two hours later.

The Ukip leader Gerard Batten urged people to join the party and fight against what he saw as an imminent loss for Brexit supporters. There is a real danger we will leave in name only, he said. MPs dont care how many people go on this march, it doesnt affect them the only thing that affects them is losing their seats.

Speaker after speaker followed decrying the anti-Brexit MPs and the BBC.

Anne Marie Waters, the leader of the far-right For Britain, said she was appalled that the business secretary Greg Clark was proposing to keep the borders open to keep business leaders happy. The companys voice is not louder than ours, she said referring to the 17.4 million who voted for Brexit. Companies, they can adjust, she added.

Waters said the BBC had taken great pleasure at reporting the Airbus threat to leave the country because of Brexit. It is not because of Brexit but because of the incompetence of the government, which two years later cant tell companies what sort of Brexit they want.

Andrew Peck, a pro-Brexit and White Pendragon supporter, came from Nottingham. He described himself as a floating voter who had supported Ukip in the last elections but otherwise whichever party was best for the NHS. I dont want anything to do with the EU, its nice to see lots of people like me here, he said.

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Julian Farrer, 21 from Florida, has taken a break from his holidays to support the pro Brexit campaign. Aviation student is half British and says EU is cause of mass immigration and bad for Britain pic.twitter.com/lECfI4tXEQ

June 23, 2018

Craig Lennon, 21, came from Glasgow, lured by the Free Tommy campaign and Clive McElhinney from Tunbridge Wells was in London to make sure the government enforced what we voted for two years ago. He said: The only way you can get your voice heard is on this march.

Julian Farrer, brandishing an EU got to go Corbyn the Commy placard, had come all the way from Florida. He is half-British, his father was pro-EU, but he and his brother thought the EU was bad for Britain.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/jun/23/brexit-protest-two-years-after-referendum

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