Brexit March: Hundreds of Thousands Join Referendum Protest

Hundreds of thousands are marching through central London calling for another EU referendum, as MPs search for a way out of the Brexit impasse.

Organisers of the “Put It To The People” campaign say more than a million people have joined the march before rallying in front of Parliament.

It comes after the EU agreed to delay the UK’s departure from the EU.

PM Theresa May is coming under pressure to quit after saying she might not put her Brexit deal to a third vote by MPs.

She wrote to all MPs on Friday saying she will ditch plans to put the deal to another so-called meaningful vote if not enough MPs support it.

Downing Street sources have denied reports in the Times newspaper that discussions are under way about a timetable for the prime minister to step down.

Protestors at the People's Vote march
Protestors at the People's Vote march

Unless her deal is passed by MPs, the UK will have to come up with an alternative plan or else face leaving without a deal on 12 April.

Crowds at the rally were told the initial count showed more than a million people had turned up – putting it on a par with the biggest march of the century, the Stop the War march in 2003.

There was no independent verification of the numbers but BBC correspondent Richard Lister, who was at the scene when the march began in Park Lane, said: “The march set off about 20 minutes ago but the movement up the march has yet to reach this point – and we are relatively close to the front – people here are still waiting to march.”


At the scene

Analysis

The streets around Park Lane were teeming with people hours ahead of the march’s scheduled 1pm start, having come from all corners of the country – and some from further beyond.

The blue and yellow of the EU was splashed all over the ever-expanding crowd, which was full of groups of families, friends, colleagues and political groups.

Many people came draped in flags and carried homemade signs, featuring slogans ranging from playful – “Never gonna give EU up” – to political – “Forget the Ides of March – beware the Brexit of May”. And then there were the plain angry – “Brexit is treason”.

One member of the crowd, German-born vet Chris Reichmann, described the atmosphere as a “carnival ” – with “lots of different nationalities” but “really British in a way”.

And it was noisy, with some of London’s most recognisable streets overflowing with people marching steadily to a soundtrack of beating drums, whistles and blaring horns.

Occasionally the hordes would erupt into spontaneous cheering, as well as chants of “What do we want? People’s vote. When do we want it? Now!”


London Mayor Sadiq Khan tweeted a video of himself joining demonstrators holding up a ‘Put it to the People’ banner at the front of the march as it began.

He was flanked at the front of the march by Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable, who tweeted that there was a “huge turnout of people here from all walks of life”.

Aerial view of the march

Aerial pictures taken from a helicopter showed the scale of the crowds
Aerial view of the march

Meanwhile, a record-breaking online petition on Parliament’s website calling for Brexit to be cancelled by revoking Article 50 has attracted more than 4.3 million signatures.

As the number of signatures on the petition continued to climb, its creator Margaret Georgiadou said she had “received three death threats over the phone”, and a “torrent of abuse” via her Facebook account.

Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran said the petition could “give oxygen” to the campaign for another Brexit referendum.

But veteran Conservative MP John Redwood told the BBC: “We know that 16 million people wanted to stay in the EU, and some of those would still like to stay in the EU, and within that quite a few would like to have another go and have another referendum – but it was always a minority.”

People's Vote March in London
People's Vote March
People's Vote March in London

Speakers at the rally have included Labour’s deputy leader, Tom Watson, Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, London Mayor Sadiq Khan, former Tory turned independent MP Anna Soubry and former attorney general Dominic Grieve.

Ms Sturgeon said now was “the moment of maximum opportunity” to avoid a no-deal Brexit.

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