London march calls for final say on Brexit

Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets of London on Saturday to call for another Brexit referendum in a demonstration that organisers said had exceeded all expectations, with some estimates putting the number of protesters at more than a million.

The Put It To The People march, which looks set to be one of the biggest protests in the UK, took place ahead of an expected series of votes in parliament next week to test support for alternatives to Theresa May’s Brexit deal. A second referendum is likely to be one of the options MPs will vote on, although a parliamentary majority for another vote is seen as unlikely. 

Michael Heseltine, the former Conservative deputy prime minister, delivered one of the most powerful speeches of the rally, lambasting Mrs May’s efforts to pin the blame on parliament for the chaos surrounding Brexit.

Invoking Winston Churchill and his long career in frontline politics, Lord Heseltine said “I was appalled by Theresa May’s speech on Wednesday evening. It will rank among the biggest affronts on parliamentary democracy in our history.” 

Tom Watson, deputy leader of the Labour party, said he was reluctant to be campaigning for another referendum but he was left with no other choice. He told Mrs May: “I’ll support your deal through parliament, or a tweaked deal if you’ll work with my party. But I will only let a deal through if you let the people vote on it too.” 

Other politicians who addressed the rally included Conservative Dominic Grieve, the Labour party’s Jess Philips, Anna Soubry from the Independent Group and mayor of London Sadiq Khan.

Estimating the size of protests in major cities is notoriously unreliable. The organisers said that the turnout was more than double the previous second referendum protest. They did not, however, claim to beat the all-time of record of the 2003 protest against the Iraq War, which was claimed to be close to 2m. 

The crowd, which was diverse in age, gender and ethnicity, was awash with EU flags and placards displaying a dry British sense of the humour. Former Ukip leader Nigel Farage, Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg former prime minister David Cameron were lampooned, alongside slogans calling for Article 50 to be rescinded.

Many of the protesters expressed anger at the prospect of leaving the EU, even if they were unsure whether a second referendum would take place.

Joanna, a fundraiser with the Teenage Cancer Trust charity, brought her son Charlie on his first march. “The whole of the vote was based on lies. Now we’ve got a better picture,” she said. “Where do you start? The government’s doing a dreadful job. Jeremy Corbyn’s shit. The people need to have their voices heard. It’s as simple as that.” 

© Reuters

Andrew, who was marching under the banner Veterans for Europe, said that he hoped the march would move British politics to “the point where there will be a reconsideration of where we are so we can rectify a historic wrong.” 

But he acknowledged that it may be too late. “It’s a difficult thing. All we can do is apply public pressure and show it’s not a one-way street and that people do care about this and very strongly do want to remain.”


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