This weekend (Saturday 20th) the centre of London will be chock-a-block, not with traffic, but with thousands and thousands of people marching together to demand their say – a People’s Vote – on Brexit. The demonstration promises to be kaleidoscope of colour and sound – home-made placards vying for space with banners, people with loudspeakers leading chants against Brexit, good natured singing, young and old walking side by side, families pushing buggies, grandparents, teenagers, students, office workers, celebrities and members of parliament.
Many will have travelled from across the UK to be there, some by train, others on coaches. Some will have flown back to their homeland from elsewhere in Europe. And why? Because they want to be part of a movement which is by the people, for the people. A campaign which was only launched a few months ago, but which growing by the day. A campaign which demands that the people are given a say on the final Brexit deal.
Every day, more and more people across the UK, including politicians, business-owners, celebrities and members of the public are declaring their support for a People’s Vote, where holding a referendum on the outcome of the UK government’s negotiations is seen as the solution to the impasse the UK faces on Brexit.
IN THE PHOTO: The EU Flag at People’s Vote march in London last June. PHOTO CREDIT: People’s Vote.
The campaign team, which is trying to achieve a People’s Vote is burgeoning. Dozens of people sit huddled every day at computers and laptops, in a rather drab 1960s office block on the north bank of the Thames. Their dedication is clear — often arriving early, or leaving late, not because of office culture, but because they are passionate and committed to what they are doing. The campaign, which was launched back in April, brought together nine different organisations, and relies on individual donations.
But what is most striking about the campaign team are the many young faces, sitting alongside more experienced colleagues. The different groups which formed the People’s Vote campaign, include For our Futures Sake and Our Future Our Choice. These are run by young people for young people, reaching out to schools, universities and community groups and organising eye catching stunts and demonstrations: earlier this month they staged an eye-catching mock funeral for Brexit at the Conservative Party conference. Lara Spirit, Co-President of OFOC said “A million teenagers who were under eighteen in 2016 and unable to vote in the 2016 referendum, have now reached maturity and they are determined to have their voices heard on Brexit. Poll after poll show that Britain’s young, who will be living with the repercussions of Brexit for generations, feel most passionate about remaining part of the European Union”.
“The gap between the Brexit promised by the Leave campaign two years ago and the reality of what Brexit means, is sending shock waves through communities across the UK” says Francis Grove White, who is Deputy-Director of Open Britain, one of the groups behind the People’s Vote campaignIt would be difficult to find anyone in the UK who thinks that the UK’s Brexit negotiations have gone well. Instead of there being extra money for local hospitals, EU nurses and doctors are leaving in large numbers and Britain’s National Health Service is facing a growing funding and recruitment crisis. Prices in shops are rising because the value of the pound has fallen. And the British government has admitted that it is having to stockpile medicines to prepare for shortages. And Britain faces a huge bill of £50 billion to leave the EU.”
IN THE PHOTO: People’s Vote in march in London last June near Westminster. PHOTO CREDIT: People’s Vote.
“The political elite which presented Brexit as a panacea for Britain, promised things which could never be delivered,” Francis Grove White adds. ”And now many of Brexit’s architects are simply walking away from the mess they have created – senior politicians including the former British Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, and the former Brexit Secretary, David Davis, have resigned their posts, leaving others to clear up their mess. Privately, other champions of Brexit show little faith in their own cause – like right wing Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg moving money abroad or like the original architect of Brexit Nigel Farage – trying to get EU citizenships for their kids. “
Many members of Theresa May’s Government are promising to vote down the deal she is seeking from the EU, unhappy that her so called “Chequers plan” would result in major new barriers to trade with Europe for businesses – particularly those in the services sector – and leave the UK still obeying EU rules, but without any say in how they are made. Her proposals would leave Britain facing a “blindfold Brexit” – a deal where no one really knows the cost and impact of leaving the EU until after we have left. Nobody voted for this.” And then there is the issue of Northern Ireland, where all proposals on the table would either threaten the peace process or put Northern Ireland into a separate regulatory regime to the rest of the UK – something which would be unacceptable to the Democratic Unionist Party, currently supporting Theresa May’s minority Government in Westminster.
IN THE PHOTO: Many blue EU flags at People’s Vote march last June in London. PHOTO CREDIT: People’s Vote.
The alternative being threatened by the Prime Minister, leaving without any deal, is too horrifying for most to contemplate. But already many businesses are having to make contingency plans for the unknown. Car manufacturers with UK plants say they will need to shut down operations next Spring, when Britain is due to leave the EU, so they can take stock and address broken supply chains. Doctors are issuing warnings about being unable to obtain medicines. And delays of hours or even days are feared at customs. The main motorway leading to the Channel Tunnel and Port of Dover could become a permanent lorry park, with hundreds of temporary toilets being placed along its route. There are warnings that planes may not be able to fly. And for anyone who manages to get abroad, they may find that they can not use their cash card or access their bank account.
The politicians seem unable to agree a way forwards, or even on what kind of Brexit they want, with just weeks to go until the deadline. So unsurprisingly, Britain is now looking for a way out of the Brexit mess in which it finds itself. Britain’s population is increasingly aware of the realities of Brexit, , and more sceptical about the hollow promises which attracted them to narrowly vote leave, two years ago. And increasingly, holding a referendum on any final Brexit deal, or no deal, seems the obvious answer: giving every British citizen – leavers and remainers alike — a say on any Brexit deal – a People’s Vote.