Anti-Brexit activists march to parliament
October 20 2019 01:09 AM
Demonstrators hold placards and EU and Union flags as they take part yesterday in a march by the ‘People’s Vote’ organisation in central London, calling for a final say in a second referendum on Brexit.


Hundreds of thousands of Britons marched through London yesterday to demand a new Brexit referendum and celebrated as lawmakers in parliament voted to postpone Britain’s departure from the European Union.
The protesters, some having travelled for hours from around the United Kingdom to get to the capital, waved EU flags under sunny skies and held placards that employed creativity and wit.
Walking behind a pink banner proclaiming “together for the final say”, they chanted: “What do we want? People’s vote! When do we want it? Now.”
The crowd clogged vast stretches of central London, with thousands of people waiting to begin the march at Hyde Park by the time others had reached parliament as lawmakers held the first Saturday session since the 1982 Falklands war.
“I am incensed that we are not being listened to. Nearly all the polls show that now people want to remain in the EU. We feel that we are voiceless,” said Hannah Barton, 56, a cider maker from central England, who was draped in an EU flag. “This is a national disaster waiting to happen and it is going to destroy the economy.”
After more than three years of tortuous debate, it is still uncertain how, when or even if Brexit will happen as Prime Minister Boris Johnson tries to pass his new Brexit deal and plots a way out of the deepest political crisis in a generation.
While Brexit has divided families, parties, parliament and the country, both sides agree yesterday that the coming days could be some of the most important in recent British history: a juncture that could shape the fate of the United Kingdom for generations.
Lawmakers voted to withhold support for the Brexit deal until formal ratification legislation has passed, a step that will oblige Johnson to seek a delay.
As the crowd watched events in parliament unfold on large screens and mobile phones, they cheered and shouted “people’s vote” as they viewed the result as another chance to stop Brexit.
Demonstrator Philip Dobson told AFP after the vote: “That’s really good, that’s one step away from Brexit. It could be that the government falls, who knows?”
Thomas Lambert, a rare Brexit supporter wandering among the crowds, said he was “gutted” by the vote, adding: “Another delay is an abomination.”
Many protesters carried placards, some comparing Brexit to the election of US President Donald Trump.
Some wore elaborate costumes with one dressed as a banana holding a sign saying “we are ‘ripe’ for change”.
There were also effigies mocking politicians such as Johnson and his key adviser Dominic Cummings.
Many of the signs displayed a dry British sense of humour.
One said: “I am very cross about this” while another was: “I made this sign instead of screaming”.
As the marchers advanced some blew whistles and erupted in shouts of “Stop Brexit”.
A percussion band played and a gathering sang the EU’s anthem Ode to Joy.
James McGrory, director of the “People’s Vote” campaign, which organised the march, said ahead of the protest that the government should heed the anger of pro-Europeans and hold another referendum on EU membership.
“This new deal bears no resemblance to what people were promised and so it is only right that the public deserve another chance to have their say,” he said.
Campaigners are confident that the protest will rival a similar demonstration in March when organisers said 1mn people took to the streets.
A rally this size would be among the largest ever in Britain.
London’s police said it does not provide an estimate for the size of rallies because it is an “inexact science”, but tweeted pictures showing streets and the square outside parliament crammed with protesters.
The mood of protesters ranged from anger to despair.
Many railed against political leaders championing Brexit for being elite and out of touch.
Some were young people who were unable to vote during the 2016 referendum and described the fight for another vote as the defining political event of their lives.
“If we leave the EU this is not the end of this, we will keep fighting to rejoin until that happens,” said Victoria Paynter, 17, who held a sign “check us before you wreck us”.
“The first referendum was jumping on a train without a destination,” said Douglas Hill, 35, from Oxford, south central England, with his Estonian wife and their baby daughter. “Now that we have a destination, we need to have a second referendum.”
Another attendee, Theodor Howe, a 20-year-old student in Dundee, eastern Scotland, conceded another poll could be divisive but insisted it was still necessary.
“People should have a say in what is going to happen,” he told AFP.
In 2016, 52% backed Brexit, while 48% backed remaining in the EU.
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 voters say they have become increasingly bored by Brexit.
Since July 2017 there have been 226 polls asking people whether they support Leave or Remain, according to a poll of polls by YouGov published last week.
Of those, 204 have put support for remaining in the EU ahead, seven have given a lead to leave and a few have been tied.
Other opinion polls suggest most voters have not changed their mind: 50% of the public want to respect the referendum result, 42% want Britain to remain in the EU, and 8% said they don’t know, the largest Brexit poll since 2016 carried out by ComRes found.
Supporters of Brexit say holding another referendum would deepen divisions and undermine democracy.
“It will be our last opportunity to have a final say,” said Jane Golding, a lawyer working in Berlin. “Most British abroad didn’t have a say in the last referendum, most Europeans here didn’t have it either. 
“That wrong needs to be righted. Let us vote!”
The challenge for pro-referendum forces is finding enough support in parliament, and even if another referendum were agreed, it would take months to organise and there would be disputes about the question – and the result would be impossible to predict.
A smaller counter-protest by Brexit supporters draped in the British flag was also staged in Westminster, with rival demonstrators verbally sparring with each other in the shadow in parliament.

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