London: Hundreds of demonstrators from rival camps celebrated outside Britain’s parliament on Tuesday, united against the deal that was overwhelmingly voted down by MPs, but divided over what it means.
Parliament’s vote against the deal raises the possibility both of Brexit being indefinitely delayed — suiting the pro-EU camp — and of Britain being forced to leave the European Union without an agreement — favoured by Leave voters.
In the more numerous camp, Europhiles wearing starry berets proudly waved European Union flags and signs reading “Stop Brexit” under Westminster’s windows, chanting “Brexit is dead!” as the results were announced.
“It’s marvellous, it’s one step closer to staying in the EU,” said Nina Hawl, 82, from London.
Chris Hammond, 53, hoped that a second referendum was now on the table.
“I won’t stop fighting, if there is a campaign for second referendum, I will be working everyday,” he said.
Emma Knaggs, 37, gave up her “well-paid” job in telecoms to become a full-time anti-Brexit volunteer, and was outside parliament hoping to defend her “freedom of movement” rights.
“My whole family benefited from EU citizenship: my parents lived for 28 years in Belgium and I was born there,” she said.
“I wanted to do something else with my life and realised Brexit was the thing I cared the most about,” she said.
Pensioner Magdalena Williams said she was “happy because Theresa May has lost”, and that the possibility of an extension of the departure date meant “we have time for a better campaign for another referendum”.
‘We must leave the EU’
Security was a major concern for anti-Brexit protester Peter Benson, 55, who was born near Dublin but has lived in the United Kingdom for 35 years.
“I think terrorism could return to the UK if there’s a Brexit,” he said, referring to explosive packages found in London and Glasgow last week and claimed by a group calling itself the Irish Republican Army (IRA).
In the middle of the pro-EU crowd, pro-Brexit supporters said they were concerned May’s deal would have maintained too close relations with the EU.
“We voted to leave the EU so we must leave the EU, we’re a democracy,” said Suzanne Nicholson, who vowed to keep making the 185 mile (300 kilometre) trip from Yorkshire to Westminster to demonstrate “until we’re out”.
Harriett, a retired Londoner, hoped that Brexit would solve overcrowding in London.
“I hope leaving the EU will change London, London is very overpopulated, we want to get many people to leave,” she said.
“I don’t usually demonstrate, I have to do my bit... because I’m a leaver.”
Mike Ransom, 52, said he was glad the deal was rejected, but that he was “confused”.
“Where do we go now? I don’t know. If we don’t get Brexit there is going to be unrest in the streets.”