Huge Brexit protest march in London

Britons dreading life outside the European Union gathered from all corners of the United Kingdom in London last Saturday to try to stop their country's looming break-up with the world's biggest trading bloc.
Britons dreading life outside the European Union gathered from all corners of the United Kingdom in London last Saturday to try to stop their country's looming break-up with the world's biggest trading bloc.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Hundreds of thousands call for 2nd referendum on eventual deal

LONDON/BELFAST • Hundreds of thousands of supporters of the European Union (EU) marched through London in the biggest demonstration so far to demand that the British government hold a public vote on the terms of Brexit.

The protesters waved the blue and gold flag of the EU and held up "Bollocks to Brexit" banners under sunny skies last Saturday to call for another referendum on the eventual deal on how Britain will leave the world's biggest trading bloc.

The march comes after another tumultuous week for Prime Minister Theresa May, in which she failed to agree on a divorce deal with EU leaders in Brussels and infuriated members of her own party by making further concessions in the talks.

With just over five months until Britain is due to leave, there is no clarity about what a future trade deal with the EU will look like, and some rebels in Mrs May's Conservative Party have threatened to vote down a deal if she clinches one.

Mr James McGrory, one of the organisers of the march, said voters should have the chance to change their minds because the decision will impact their lives for generations. "People think the Brexit negotiations are a total mess, they have no faith in the government to deliver the promises that were made, partly because they cannot be delivered," he said.

At the march, protesters carried placards saying "Time for an EU turn" and "European and proud".

Organisers said about 700,000 people took part in the People's Vote march, which would make it the largest in Britain since a demonstration against the Iraq war in 2003. The police did not provide an independent estimate of numbers participating.

LET US VOTE AGAIN

People should have the opportunity to vote for an alternative based on what we now know.

MR BRENDAN HEADING, an IT worker.

BAD IDEA

We had a vote, we voted to leave, the idea to have a second referendum would be incredibly damaging.

MR RICHARD TICE, vice-chairman of Leave Means Leave.

Protesters originally gathered near Hyde Park and then walked past Downing Street and finished outside Parliament, where they listened to politicians from all the main political parties.

Britain's 2016 referendum saw 52 per cent vote in favour of leaving the EU. But the past two years have been politically fraught as the government has struggled to agree on a plan and there are fears that Britain could leave the bloc without a deal.

Some opinion polls have shown a slight shift in favour of remaining in the EU, but there has yet to be a decisive change in attitudes and many in Britain say they have become increasingly bored by Brexit.

Mrs May has repeatedly ruled out holding a second referendum. The opposition Labour Party's Brexit spokesman said last month his party is open to a second referendum with the option of staying in the bloc in certain circumstances.

In Belfast, Northern Ireland, around 2,000 people gathered last Saturday to oppose Brexit.

Mr Brendan Heading, a 39-year-old IT worker, said he was worried the decision to leave the EU would damage the economy and could lead to the break up of the United Kingdom. "I feel that Brexit threatens prosperity and stability," he said. "People should have the opportunity to vote for an alternative based on what we now know."

Brexit supporters held their own rally in the town of Harrogate in the north of England.

Mr Richard Tice, vice-chairman of Leave Means Leave and one of the speakers at the event, described the people on the march in London as "losers" and said a second referendum would trigger a constitutional crisis. "We had a vote, we voted to leave, the idea to have a second referendum would be incredibly damaging," he said.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 22, 2018, with the headline 'Huge Brexit protest march in London'. Print Edition | Subscribe