Thousands march in London calling for new referendum

Pro-EU demonstrators in the "People's Vote" march in London yesterday. Organisers said hundreds of thousands of people were in the crowd as it began to march.
Pro-EU demonstrators in the "People's Vote" march in London yesterday. Organisers said hundreds of thousands of people were in the crowd as it began to march.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • Hundreds of thousands of people opposed to Britain's withdrawal from the European Union marched through central London yesterday to demand a new referendum as the deepening Brexit crisis threatened to end Mrs Theresa May's premiership.

Marchers set off in central London with banners proclaiming, "The best deal is no Brexit" and "We demand a People's Vote", in what organisers said could be the biggest anti-Brexit protest yet.

After three years of tortuous debate, it is still uncertain how, when or even if Brexit will happen as Mrs May tries to plot a way out of the country's gravest political crisis in at least a generation.

Mrs May had hinted last Friday that she might not bring her twice-defeated EU divorce deal back to Parliament this week, leaving her Brexit strategy in meltdown.

The Times and The Daily Telegraph reported that pressure was growing on Mrs May to resign.

"I would feel differently if this was a well-managed process and the government was taking sensible decisions. But it is complete chaos," said Mr Gareth Rae, 59, who travelled from Bristol to attend the demonstration. "The country will be divided whatever happens and it is worse to be divided on a lie."

While the country and its politicians are divided over Brexit, most agree it is the most important strategic decision the United Kingdom has faced since World War II.

 
 
 

Pro-EU protesters gathered for a "Put it to the people march" on the edge of Hyde Park around midday, before marching past the Prime Minister's office in Downing Street and finishing outside Parliament.

Campaign organisers said hundreds of thousands of people were in the crowd as it began to march.

Organisers were confident that the size of the crowd would exceed that of a similar rally held last October, when supporters said about 700,000 people turned up.

A petition to cancel Brexit altogether gained four million signatures in just three days after Mrs May told the public "I am on your side" over Brexit, and urged lawmakers to get behind her deal.

But protesters disagreed with Mrs May's claim that she is on the side of the British public, with one placard reading: "You do not speak for us Theresa."

In the June 23, 2016, referendum, 17.4 million voters, or 52 per cent, backed Brexit while 16.1 million, or 48 per cent, backed staying in the bloc.

REUTERS

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on March 24, 2019, with the headline 'Thousands march in London calling for new referendum'. Print Edition | Subscribe