Pro-EU protesters revel in defeat of Brexit deal

An anti-Brexit demonstrator reacting to the result of the British Parliament's vote on the Brexit deal in London on Tuesday. Pro-Brexit activists were similarly buoyed by the defeat of Prime Minister Theresa May's deal, but for different reasons - th
An anti-Brexit demonstrator reacting to the result of the British Parliament's vote on the Brexit deal in London on Tuesday. Pro-Brexit activists were similarly buoyed by the defeat of Prime Minister Theresa May's deal, but for different reasons - they want a no-deal Brexit.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

LONDON • Waving European Union flags, hundreds of anti-Brexit activists outside Parliament roared with approval as the government's divorce deal was crushed by MPs.

Massed in front of two big screens airing live coverage of the pivotal vote, the crowd of fervent pro-Europeans erupted into cheers and applause as the result was relayed on Tuesday.

"I am so pleased - but a bit concerned with what comes next," retiree Sarah Cuthbertson, 68, told Agence France-Presse (AFP). "I didn't think it would be such a big majority against," she said of the 230-vote margin of defeat - the largest ever in modern British political history.

Nearby, a smaller contingent of pro-Brexit activists was similarly cheered by the defeat of Prime Minister Theresa May's deal, but for different reasons.

"I am ecstatic," said Mr Reg Kerr-Bell, 55, a retiree in London clasping a "Leave Means Leave" placard. "No-deal is what I want to see now."

However, he conceded that Parliament's rejection of the government's plan puts Brexit in some jeopardy. "I am very worried they (MPs) might try to hijack the process."

Deploying flags, floats and even a mock-up of the Titanic dubbed "HMS Brexit", hundreds of noisy pro-and anti-EU activists had descended on Westminster to make their voices heard ahead of the crunch vote.

TIME RUNNING OUT

I urge the United Kingdom to clarify its intentions as soon as possible. Time is almost up.

EUROPEAN COMMISSION PRESIDENT JEAN-CLAUDE JUNCKER

"The only thing so far that managed to unite the country has been this deal and how everyone hates it," Mr Simon Fisher, 25, told AFP, draped in a "Leave Means Leave" flag.

As opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn announced he had filed a no-confidence motion in the government, pro-EU supporters urged him to go further.

"Unless he changes his stance on a second referendum, I don't think he will get people on board," said Ms Lesley Lacloche, 61, who was draped in EU attire.

Some waved signs and placards like "Don't Let May Betray the UK" and "Stop the Brexit Mess".

Crowds converged on the square and street opposite the Palace of Westminster - the formal name for the Houses of Parliament and grounds - from the early hours of the morning, under the gaze of TV cameras beaming the images around the world.

 
 
 

In one of the more eye-catching displays, pro-EU protesters reimagined the Titanic disaster, erecting a cardboard ship, iceberg and caricature of PM May on the bow beside a life-ring. "Brexit is a sinking ship," said Mr Bert Wander, one of the organisers.

Demonstrators had lined the walkways around nearby makeshift broadcasting studios, with each side staking out their camp and no mingling on show.

Despite the entrenched opposition, the atmosphere remained mainly civil as large numbers of police looked on.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 17, 2019, with the headline 'Pro-EU protesters revel in defeat of Brexit deal'. Print Edition | Subscribe