A roar of pro-European chants rose up above Pall Mall and across the royal parks on Saturday as tens of thousands attended an anti-Brexit march marking the second anniversary of the EU referendum.
Some marched in the hope of stopping Brexit, some just wanted to alter the “mood music” to help change the direction of government travel, but young and old, Labour and Tory, they were all united in their pro-European passion.
Nicolas Maclean, a former adviser to Margaret Thatcher, marched with a group of about a dozen men and woman brandishing large “Tories against Brexit” placards.
June 23, 2018
“She would be turning in her grave,” he said. “She said one of her greatest achievements in Europe was Britain taking the lead in setting up the single market and now some people in government want us to leave. It is an absolute disaster,” said Maclean.
An estimated 50,000 have so far taken part in the People’s Vote march, which is due to culminate in a rally at Parliament Square, with speeches from politicians David Lammy, Anna Soubry and Vince Cable.
Anti-Brexit demonstrators in central London Photograph: Wiktor Szymanowicz/Barcroft Images
“We go on this march with a simple message: Brexit is not inevitable,” said Cable.
“This is too big to ignore and too important to be left to politicians,” said Lammy.
Ed de Mesquita, another anti-Brexit Tory, said he could hardly read the Telegraph any more because it was so doggedly supporting a hard Brexit.
He said: “Very often I find it difficult to get through an article. Even when Airbus says it’s threatening to close down some of its operations, they say you are moaning. This is the phony war. It hasn’t happened. We haven’t left the EU yet. When it gets close the City, many manufacturers are going to leave.
“It’s not going to be OK. I tell you what is the worst thing, it’s the legacy we are going to leave the young people.”
Tories Against Brexit – “I cant read the Telegraph in Brexit any more”. “They are still doggedly supporting Brexit. I can’t willingly see the economy of my country damaged” that’s why I’m marching – Edward Se Mesquitahttps://t.co/9NlDzBbDgK
June 23, 2018
Next to him was Neil Carmichael, a former Conservative party MP for Stroud. “I think we need a rethink about the direction of travel about Brexit. We’ve seen from Airbus and BMW and many other countries that the risks are absolutely huge if we don’t go to a reconsideration stage,” he said.
As a samba band drummed its way through Pall Mall and on through Trafalgar Square where an Eid celebration was taking place, people from all over the country and from Europe hoped to drive home their message.
Tories Against Brexit in march including former MP Neil Carmichael and former Thatcher aide Nicolas Maclean pic.twitter.com/MxDlcYTKOD
June 23, 2018
Oli Aizcorbe, 10, from London said: “I think Brexit sucks.” His 11-year-old friend Stevie Robinson said she feared for her future. “Because it has such an impact on young people’s future, I don’t think Cameron should have just put it to the public like he did. I am very angry about it,” she said.
Hazel Bergiel, a Briton who lives in France, had come from her home in Chevreuse to take part. “I’ve lived in France for the last 35 years and I wouldn’t have voted to leave but I was denied a vote,” she said. “I’m very much anti-Brexit, but I’m still very much British. I only have one passport even though I live there and this is why I’m here, really – to support the movement.”
The division Brexit was creating was personal for some people in attendance. Grazia Valentino, who lives in Paris and is also British, said the loss of free movement would place a barrier in her marriage.
People hold up placards on the march Photograph: Wiktor Szymanowicz/Barcroft Images
“My husband lives here and I live in Paris. We’re on the Eurostar regularly and we’ve been doing that for 20 years,” she said. “I’ve really claimed my full freedom of movement rights and I’m going to be separated from my family who live in Italy and my husband in the UK.
Chris Berry, wearing a “British husband” EU-blue T-shirt, stood with his partner, Maria, wearing a “Slovak wife” matching T-shirt, as they held aloft a collage of pro-Brexit newspaper mastheads with the headline “enemies of the people”.
Berry, from Worcestershire, was angry that his future was in limbo simply because he fell in love with a woman from the continent. “Even with the settled-status details published the other day, we’re still not certain what is going to happen,” he said.
His wife, Maria, said: “We are in a constant state of uncertainty and although it is probably going to be alright, we don’t know for sure,” she said. “Our mortgage is up for renewal shortly and I could be deemed a risky customer.”
Janet and James Sheerin from Newcastle have been campaigning for the last two years. “We are here to support people getting a final vote. If there is no deal it makes it even more important. People never agreed to have a disaster,” said Mr Sheerin.
Sol Aizcorbe, her son Olii and friend Stevie on People’s Vote march pic.twitter.com/SkdP1i3XP2
June 23, 2018
Simon Allison, the organiser of Tories Against Brexit, described them as a “reasonably high powered group” of ex-parliamentarians and political advisers.
“As a former investment banker and CEO, there is nothing worse than going into negotiations without a backstop you don’t have. We don’t have the components in place and the government keeps fighting to maintain a line that doesn’t exist.”
Dominic Robinson said it was more important than ever that the UK stayed close to Europe. “It is hard to imagine European countries wanting to fall out and go to war, but with the rise of rightwing governments there is some prospect of that in 20 or 30 years’ time if we fragment Europe more.”