London: Caroline Lucas, Vince Cable and David Lammy were among speakers that have argued the case for Britain to remain in the EU at a rally in London, after an estimated 100,000 people marched to Parliament Square calling for a ‘People’s Vote’ on the final Brexit deal.
Lucas, the Green party’s only MP, said that a new political consensus needed to be built around the campaign to remain in the European Union.
“We can’t afford to be defenders of the establishment, of some kind of vapid centrism that has failed in the past and will fail again,” she said.
“Our campaign must be radical, it must be young, it must be diverse; it must listen to people, empower them and create reasons for hope; it mustn’t simply make economic threats and call those who threatened to leave ‘stupid’. We must be different to win and we have to win.”
An estimated 100,000 people turned up at an anti-Brexit rally in London on Saturday. - Twitter
On freedom of movement, she said that it was a “precious gift to be able to travel, work, study and live and love in 27 countries”.
“We should be celebrating freedom of movement, not apologising for it,” she said.
Cable, leader of the Liberal Democrats, accused the older generation of betraying Britain’s young people.
“The damage has been done, and it’s been done to the prospects of the younger generation who have been [expletive] by the older Brexiteers, and it’s our job to fight for them,” he said. “I’m here on behalf of my party, but I want to work with people across the board, from other parties who are here today, to make this a truly national effort.”
Labour’s Tottenham MP, Lammy, pointed to the “hostile environment” immigration policies of the Conservative government as an example of the racist agenda that Brexit has fed.
“We remember the Windrush generation as we celebrate 70 years of multiculturalism in this country, people that came after the Second World War and gave so much, but took so little,” he said.
“And we’ve noticed with this hostile environment the increasing tone and rhetoric about difference in this country, the rising tide of hate crime; and all of you say: ‘No, that is not the future that we want for this country’.”
The rally took place at the end of a march from Pall Mall behind a banner proclaiming: “We demand a vote on the final Brexit deal.”
At its outset, the politicians and public figures who led it took to the stage, prompting crowds to break into a spontaneous chant of “Where’s Jeremy Corbyn?” Some Twitter users pointed out that the Labour leader was in Jordan, visiting Palestinian refugee camps.
Speaking from the stage, Kieran Donovan, a courier driver who took Jacob Rees-Mogg to task on an LBC phone-in on post-EU trade, launched a campaign for a petition on a second EU vote. He said: “The time has come for people, not just politicians, to find their voice and make it heard. My business and my livelihood are at risk from decisions taken in Westminster.”
In the crowd, Neil Carmichael, the former Conservative MP for Stroud, stood with his daughter Rebecca, both brandishing ‘Tories for Remain’ placards. He warned that Brexit could finish his party.
“The Conservative party should note that the last two times it challenged foreign trade, over the Corn Laws and the imperial preference, it locked itself out of significant power for two decades each time. This time may be as risky.”
“I was in deep tears when the referendum happened, it looked like the future was pretty bad,” said Chiara Liduori, a 40-year-old Italian living in London.
“Brexit is awful not only because we want to keep things like it is, but because it is important to be within, in order to make changes.”
Under a blue sky, marchers set off from Pall Mall before passing May’s Downing Street office — to the sound of boos — on their way to Westminster to listen to speeches by anti-Brexit MPs including Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable and Tory rebel Anna Soubry.
“Brexit is not a done deal, not inevitable, Brexit can be reversed,” said Cable. “The vote that took place two years ago is not forever.”
Demonstrators held placards reading ‘I am a European citizen’, ‘ILoveu’ and ‘we demand a vote on final Brexit deal’.
Emily Hill, 55, told AFP she was “very much in favour of letting the people” confirm they really want Brexit.
“I think lot of the voting was a protest vote, some people genuinely are not supportive of the EU, but I don’t believe it is the majority opinion in this country,” she added, European flag in hand.
Freelance journalist William Diaz, 52, said Brexit was “creating tensions” and a “much more polarised society.
“It is not something you can decide on a yes no vote,” he added.
Almost two-thirds of Britons believe they should have a final say on the Brexit deal, according to a poll published this week, although it is still unclear what would happen the government’s deal were rejected.
Britain’s Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who campaigned to leave the European Union, warned May against a Brexit that was “soft, yielding and seemingly infinitely long” like toilet roll.
Writing in The Sun, Johnson urged against a “bog-roll Brexit”, British slang for toilet paper, and called on his boss to “fulfil the mandate of the people and deliver a full British Brexit”.
May’s team is about to enter into the next round of negotiations with EU counterparts, but is still to define exactly what it wants from Britain’s future relationship with the continent, particularly in the area of customs regulation.
‘Summer of action’
Trade minister Liam Fox, an arch Euro-sceptic, insisted that the prime minister was still prepared to walk away from the talks if no satisfactory deal was reached.
“The prime minister has always said no deal is better than a bad deal,” Fox told the BBC in an interview aired on Saturday.
“It is essential as we enter the next phase of the negotiations that the EU understands that and believes it... I think our negotiating partners would not be wise if they thought our PM was bluffing.”
Johnson, who was the most prominent face in the campaign to leave the EU, wrote that the British people “just want us to get on with it”.
“They don’t want a half-hearted Brexit,” he wrote.
“They don’t want some sort of hopeless compromise, some perpetual push me-pull you arrangement in which we stay half-in and half-out in a political no-man’s-land.
“Two years ago the people of this country recorded a verdict about themselves — that they had the guts to believe in Britain. They were right and will be proved right in the decades ahead,” he added.
However, aviation giant Airbus warned on Friday it could pull out of Britain if it leaves the EU without a deal, while carmaker BMW also warned that uncertainty was affecting the investment climate.
The march against Brexit is part of a “summer of action” planned by campaign groups to put pressure on political leaders to hold a vote on the final deal