LONDON, U.K. – Exactly two years after the U.K. scripted the most game-changing chapter in the European Union’s 60-year history, the nation’s capital witnessed some sort of a deja vu on Saturday.
Tens of thousands of anti-Brexit marchers poured into central London from all parts of the country, to mark the second anniversary of the Brexit vote by staging the ‘People’s Vote’ march.
Claiming that Brexit could be reversed, pro-EU marchers demanded a final vote on any U.K. exit deal.
On Saturday, hundreds of pro-Brexiteers gathered on the streets, to stage a counter-protest, with one simple goal – to remain the sea of anti-Brexit protesters – “We voted to leave, so we should leave.”
43 years after it first joined the European Economic Community (EEC), the forerunner to the EU, on June 23, 2016,
U.K. held its second referendum to exit the European Union.
In 1975, Eurosceptics were overpowered by British people wanting to stay in the Common Market, but tables turned in the 2016 referendum in the least expected way.
Growing into a powerful movement since then, those demanding an exit from the shackles of the EU, ensured that the second referendum was theirs for the taking.
A majority of voters returned the momentous decision to leave the bloc exactly two years back, and the referendum – which witnessed the highest turnout (71.8 percent) since 1992 – ended with 52 percent voters seeking an exit, against Remain’s 48 percent.
Yet, on Saturday, organizers of the People's Vote march insisted that people must “make their voices heard” since Brexit is “not a done deal.”
The march was put together as part of a ‘Summer of Action’ campaign planned by Westminster-based and grassroots lobbying groups – who have scheduled events across the country in a bid to foster opposition to U.K.’s exit from the world's biggest trading bloc and to pressurize the government to give the public more of a say.
Saturday’s rally marked the launch of a nationwide petition for a “People’s Vote” and organizers said that at least 100,000 people attended the march in London – making it the biggest protest in the country since the 2016 vote to leave the EU.
Waving British, Irish and European flags, carrying colorful posters and chanting powerful slogans – protesters of all ages were led by the 96-year-old World War Two veteran, Stephen Goodall as they headed from Pall Mall and made their way towards Parliament Square.
While some were optimistic in their demand for a new referendum on terms of EU departure, others were less hopeful but protested anyway – to make their voices heard and unite against a divorce they fear will be a “disaster for this country.”
As the sea of protesters in yellow and blue approached Downing Street, counter-protesters from the pro-Brexit UK Unity and Freedom march groups welcomed them with boos.
Currently, neither of Britain's two main political parties back the idea of holding a referendum on the final deal.
Organizers of Saturday’s rally said, “People have seen politicians making a cataclysmic mess of a really bad deal they didn't vote for, or even a no deal they didn't vote for. This is the people telling the political elite that they got it wrong.”
Britain is due to leave the bloc on March 29, 2019, and so far, there is no certainty about what the final deal could look like.
The process has been marred by infighting in Prime Minister Theresa May's Conservative government as well as among some of its opponents about what they want from Britain's new trading ties with the EU, post-Brexit.
The government has decided to give the Parliament a vote on the final deal in the autumn – provided that a final deal is reached.
There is, however, no clarity yet on what will happen if the Parliament rejects the final deal.
Saturday’s protests came after senior Cabinet ministers, including Liam Fox and David Davis, insisted the U.K. is prepared to walk away from talks without an agreement.
U.K. International Trade Secretary Liam Fox said the PM May is “not bluffing” about being prepared to walk away from talks with Brussels.
He warned that the economic impact of a “no-deal” Brexit on EU members would be “severe.”
Fox added, “The Prime Minister has always said that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed and that no deal would be better than a bad deal, and I think it's essential as we enter the next phase of the negotiations that the EU understands that and believes it.”
He added, “The threat had added credibility because if we were to leave, the economic impact on a number of European countries would be severe. Countries like Ireland, countries like the Netherlands, countries like Belgium, would really feel the impact of that and that cannot be what the European Union 27 actually want to see. I think our negotiating partners would not be wise if they believed that the Prime Minister was bluffing.”
Many prominent Britishers attended the march to urge protesters to make themselves heard.
Having successfully campaigned to ensure the U.K. could not trigger talks on leaving without the approval of Parliament, Pro-EU campaigner Gina Miller addressed the rally on Saturday and said, “Together we must stand up, demand our voices are heard, demand a people's vote so that future generations can hear us say we did our bit we stood up and shouted for a country that's together, kinder, tolerant. This is not a time to be silent.”
Further, Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable said Brexit was “not a done deal” and could be reversed.
Green Party co-leader Caroline Lucas also addressed the crowd and said that Brexit “will be a disaster for this country.”
Pressure group Open Britain member James McGrory, who was one of the rally organizers meanwhile argued that there should be “a choice between leaving with the deal that the government negotiates, or staying in the European Union.”
Welsh Labour MP Stephen Doughty took to Twitter from the scene of the march and said, “Incredible scenes at People’s Vote march with cross-party colleagues and tens of thousands of people from every part of Britain and every walk of life demanding a vote on the Brexit deal.”
However, presenting the other side of the debate, Shazia Hobbs, who attended the pro-Brexit UK Unity and Freedom march told reporters, “That march is silly. We voted to leave so we should leave. What do they want, best of three? We voted for Brexit.”
Speaking in favor of Brexit, Conservative MP Peter Bone said if there were a second vote, the leave campaign would win again.
He said at the counter-protest, “The vast, vast majority of people, whether they are Leavers or Remainers, just want us to get on and come out this dreadful European Union super-state. There were 17.4 million people that voted for leave and if there are a few thousand in London complaining about it – that doesn't seem to really make much difference.”
This article provided by NewsEdge.