With less than 200 days left for the UK departure from the EU in March 2019, it is natural to reflect on the ‘Remain’ and #StopBrexit activities since the dodgy referendum of 2016. What have we achieved? To what extent have we reclaimed the narrative? What – if any – impact did we have? How should we continue?
At first glance, it would seem that the plethora of diverse ‘Remain’ actions since the dodgy referendum achieved very little. There were major marches in Manchester, Leeds and London as well as other smaller ones in towns around the UK. More are planned for the various party conferences in the near future. Brexitometers proved popular and consistently capture and indicate the shift of views towards ‘Remain’. Stalls, performances, EU flag waving events continue unbated. Conferences, gatherings, meetings continue to take place. Against all odds, ‘Remain’ remains alive… But what have we achieved and how to move forward?
We tend to forget the context. Against the grassroots variety of #StopBrexit activities (under-funded and under-resourced), rarely if ever mentioned in the mainstream media, is the official state/Tory propaganda machine dominated by ‘Leave’. Ask: What have they achieved? The Tory cabinet remains divided and only through arm-twisting tactics May(hem) manages to push her Chequers plan (Read: Brexit In Name Only). Already dismissed by the EU and the Labour party, it seems likely to be modified or even dropped. All the talk behind the scenes is on which red lines will be crossed…
The pretense of planning for a ‘hard’Brexit at times swings between surrealism and tragedy (lifesaving drugs transported through planes, stockpiling medicines, government plan for electricity barges in Irish sea should Northern Ireland be cut off, M20 could be giant lorry park for years in event of no-deal Brexit, etc). However, the treasurer Philip Hammond gave it all away when he warned that leaving the EU without a deal would blow an £80bn hole in the public finances. And – interestingly – May(hem) refused to rebuke him. The Tory government is in disarray, even paralysis… No wonder in recent days Gina Miller called for an ‘end to the chaos’.
So, what has ‘Leave’ achieved since the dodgy referendum of 2016? Certainly not the high moral ground. Dodgy funding and on-going revelations that ‘Vote Leave’ broke the electoral law, have stripped Brexit from any moral authority. Originally, the Brexiteers may have positioned themselves as the anti-elite democrats, but Brexit looks increasingly as the project of the privileged, of the few, of the elite, of the cheaters… Recently, ‘OpenDemocracy UK’ captured this situation with the following words: “…You would expect a bold, democratic adventure like Brexit to generate public support. It had the press, the government and institutions such as the BBC in lock-step support of what they accepted as the country’s historic choice. Yet for two long years the division expressed in the referendum barely changed. This will come to be seen as the great, strategic failure of the Brexiteers. They had their moment and lost it…”
There was a time immediately after the dodgy referendum that we were too shocked and even afraid to openly state “#StopBrexit”. It took many months for ‘Remain’ to bring back to the mainstream narrative this call loud and clear (Speak it – Share it – Demand it). As we head towards the ‘meaningful’ vote on the ‘deal’ in the Parliament sometime before this Christmas, ‘Stop Brexit’ is as pertinent as ever. The People’s Vote (PV) has some appeal and one can understand why, but practically speaking it is highly unlikely to take place before the ‘meaningful’ vote and March 2019. Sadly, many politicians continue to display moral cowardice. They need a referendum to hide behind the result and PV offers them that escape option. ‘Remainers’ however, can afford to be honest. The objective remains the same, and although seemingly unattainable, it is as relevant and as pertinent as ever. It is during the darkest moments that we must focus and not compromise our principles. We are freedom fighters. We will always seek the light. #StopBrexit
To date we have raised over £50,000 which financed the #StopBrexit marches in Manchester (1/10/17) and Leeds (24/3/18), as well as numerous smaller projects, including various Regional Rallies, and a tour of Newcastle and Gateshead by our Brexit Monstrosity float.
The expenses for this had been advanced by our team members, who worked on these events on a voluntary basis. Among others, these include the printing of leaflets and stickers, the purchase of an insurance policy and the purchase of a portable stage which has been donated to the #No10Vigil.
Please help us continue the fight against Brexit by ensuring we have sufficient funds for promoting our message to #StopBrexit!
The People’s Vote march on Saturday 23 June 2018 was a great success, receiving prominent national and international media, as hundreds of thousands of marchers descended on London to express their political rights with a peaceful demonstration.
But how many marchers were there in total? All over social media people are debating the total numbers, with estimates ranging from over 100,000 at the bottom end to over 500,000 at the top end. This article intends to shed some light on this subject.
Calculating the Size of the March
Crowd sizes of marches are notoriously hard to calculate, chiefly because crowd density varies, and in this case, the calculations are harder than most as side streets all along the route were also packed full of people.
Stop Brexit Ltd supported this march with its own section which formed outside St James Palace. To ensure the safety of our marchers we calculated the crowd capacity of the area well in advance of the march. According to these calculations, the combined capacity of Pall Mall and St James Street was 300,000, with an upper limit of 500,000 allowing spillover into the side streets. Any numbers above that would see backlog into Piccadilly and require the closure of that street.
On the day itself, St James Street filled up, but did not reach it’s maximum capacity, as there was a continuous flow of people overtaking the march line along the pavements . Nevertheless, there were at least 10 abreast in St James Street (excl. people on pavements), with an average of just half meter space per row. This equates to roughly 100 people per 5 m road length. As St James Street is 220m long, this indicates a minimum of 40,000 for that street alone, but possibly as many as 70,000 during peak times. St James Street is notably not shown in the aerial footage taken by helicopters overhead.
For Pall Mall, the aerial footage clearly shows a far higher crowd density than St James Street, with about 20 people abreast. As the street is 644m long, this indicates a minimum of 200k on Pall Mall, which conforms with our pre-march calculations of a holding capacity of 200k, the limits of which were reached.
The aerial footage also shows that St James Square and many side streets were full of protesters as well, suggesting that at least 300k marched that day.
While 500k figure seems a little high, it is not impossible. Indeed many marchers commented that it was far more crowded than the “Stop The War” march in 2003, for which estimates ranged between 750k to 2 million .
Simultaneous Pro-Brexit March fails to attract
One thing that is without dispute is the remarkable difference in size to the pro-Brexit “Independence Day” march which took place on the same day.
The aerial footage of this which is contained in the second half of the drone footage published by RT, clearly shows a march less than 150 m long, with an estimated number of no more than 3000 people at best.
This lack of enthusiasm in itself is an indicator of a waning appetite for Brexit even among its most fervent supporters, that the tide has turned and that the will of the People has changed.
Two Days of Non-Stop #StopBrexit Protests:
11 and 12 June 2018 – London
(Parliament, Whitehall and the Royal Courts of Justice)
This unique two-day event brings together four grassroots groups and the wider #StopBrexit community. SODEM, No10Vigil, EU Flag Mafia and Stop Brexit Ltd joined forces to co‑ordinate continuous protests in support of two important examinations of sovereignty: the ‘Option to Remain’ debate in Parliament on 11 June and the first hearing of the ‘Article 50 Challenge’ at the Royal Courts of Justice on June 12. – And we now are also using this occasion to protest against how the government has given MPs so little time to consider the EU Withdrawal Bill.
Following protests at parliament in the Hand-held torches will light an evening march and enthusiastic supporters will sleep overnight on the streets with flags and lanterns outside the Royal Courts. The protests have been devised to provide visually compelling scenes of pro-EU support and fresh images to the media. The Metropolitan Police have given permission for all the protest activities as well as important safety advice, which is detailed below.
The protests start on Monday 11th June with an All-Day Demo outside Parliament, an Evening Rally opposite Downing Street, and a Night March from Whitehall to the Royal Courts of Justice. They are followed by an All-Night Vigil as protesters remain at the courts in anticipation of the first hearing of the Article 50 Challenge on Tuesday 12th June, with more activities in support of the case planned outside the court on that day.
Schedule of Events
11.00-18.00 Option to Remain Protest at Parliament
The first of the protests is led by SODEM with a flag-waving demo at College Green outside parliament from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., and everyone is welcome to join in for a few hours, or even just a few minutes.
Special Rally at #No10Vigil
From 6 p.m. onwards the crowd will reassemble on Whitehall at Richmond Terrace directly opposite Downing Street.
Alongside the well-known regular performers of the #No10 Vigil, this will include Liz Webster, the claimant of the Article 50 Challenge, as well as Lords, MPs and representatives of civil society organisations, all moderated by a comedian.
The #StopBrexit Night March
Following the rally, the crowd will assemble for a symbolic march that takes people from the world of politics in Parliament and Whitehall to the world of law – at the Royal Courts of Justice.
The #StopBrexit March will assemble as the sun sets at 21.15 and head off carrying lanterns to illuminate the way through the twilight along The Embankment by the River Thames to Temple, where it will disburse between 10 and 10.30 p.m. – unless you decide to camp out!
Important safety instruction from the Metropolitan Police: All lights/torches/lanterns must be of the electronic form. In particular, candles are not permitted as the wax can become a slip hazard.
All Night Vigil at Court
To show our determination to stop Brexit, the most dedicated of the protesters will then camp out at the Royal Courts of Justice for an All Night Vigil. We will sleep rough to show how serious we are, taking turns to hold flags and lanterns.
The first hearing of the Article 50 Challenge is due the following day and many of those who donated to the Crowdjustice case will queue early to try to get a place in the public gallery.
At the same time those campers who stayed out overnight will be relieved by new reinforcements to fly the flag and continue the protest, as the world’s media attention falls on this important case.
Important instruction from the Metropolitan Police: We have been given permission to sleep outside the Royal Courts provided that we do not erect tents, so please do not bring this item.
Why We Are Protesting
In British representative democracy, parliament is sovereign, which means that government cannot do whatever it pleases.
If it wants to make important changes , then it must seek approval for its proposals from a majority of MPs in the House of Commons, and the MPs should have the right to reject these proposals outright if they decide they are not in the national interest.
The government’s response to the petition was an overstep of its mandate when it said:
“The British people voted to leave and the Government will implement their decision.The vote on the final deal will give Parliament the choice to accept the agreement or leave the EU with no agreement”
If Brexit is all about upholding British Sovereignty and democracy, then MPs surely must be given the choice of all possible options to decide what is in the interest of the country?
Similarly, the Article 50 Challenge argues that the government’s submission of the Article 50 notification also did not take parliamentary sovereignty into account. Whilst Parliament gave assent for the government to submit a notification of intent of the UK decision to leave the EU, this intent has never been ratified by Parliament. Article 50 requires that it be submitted in accordance with the constitution of the country, and as parliament did not hold a vote on leaving the EU, then Article 50 was arguably submitted unconstitutionally. If this is so, then Article 50 is not just fully revocable, but possibly unlawful – in which case it ought to be revoked immediately. #StopBrexit
So join us as we step up the pressure with two days of non-stop protests! Come to at least one of the events on June 11th or 12th, or – if you have the stamina – stay for the whole shebang. You will never have pulled a more important all nighter! #StopBrexit
CALL TO ACTION: Join us on 23 June in London to demand #StopBrexit!
On Saturday 23 June, a coalition of pro-EU groups is organising a march on parliament to demand a People’s Vote on whatever “Brexit deal” the government proposes on its future relationship with the EU.
The march is being organised by the Peoples Vote coalition which includes European Movement, Britain For Europe and Open Britain. It is further supported by other groups such as Our Future Our Choice and Best for Britain – and we are now lending our support to this march too.
At StopBrexit Ltd we feel very strongly that this People’s Vote must include an option to cancel Brexit altogether and Remain as full members of the European Union – and we are delighted to announce that we will have our very own #StopBrexit column at the march, marching behind a #StopBrexit banner.
We call on all those who feel as strongly as we do to come to London on 23 June and join us marching under the #StopBrexit banner.
Those on facebook are also encouraged to sign up on our facebook event page and share it as widely as possible.
Tell your family, friends and colleagues – and make sure you don’t miss it. Two years have passed since the country divided over Brexit, and we’ve all learnt a lot since. Thankfully democracy is an ongoing process – it’s time to demand a Peoples’ Vote with a right to remain!
On 24 March 2018, the city of Leeds saw its greatest protest in modern times, as over 10,000 protesters took to the streets to join the #StopBrexit Great Northern March, breaking the previous record of an estimated 3000 protesters at the anti-Trump march in January 2017.
Timed to coincide with the anniversary of the triggering of Article 50 in 2017, the event was simultaneously held with other marches and rallies around the country, including Edinburgh, Exeter, Ipswich and Pontypridd in South Wales.
The event was a display of unity supported by all the well-established local pro-EU groups across the North, including Lancaster, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Sheffield and York, as well as newer ones from Donnington and Hull. It was also supported by others from the Midlands, such as EU In Brum and the Nottingham branch of the European Movement, and many from much further afield, including Thame for Europe in Oxfordshire and Canterbury for Europe from Kent.
Unity was also very much the theme for the rally after the march, which featured representatives of most of the political parties and the main pro-EU groups in the country, as well as grassroots campaigners of all generations.
First on stage, following introductory speeches by the organisers, were the four co-founders of Our Future Our Choice (OFOC).
The four spoke on their desire to overcome the damage and divisions that Brexit is causing and their determination to build a better future for the country instead.
“We can come together and heal the divides in this country” said Callum Milbank, and his colleague Lara Spirit asked young people to join their movement, reminding them that “Brexit is not a done deal“.
“There is nothing patriotic about finding out that the country is doing something that is going to hurt it and just letting it happen” said Femi Oluwole.
Last of the four to speak was Will Dry who confessed that he made a mistake,
“I voted Leave, because I wanted more trade with the rest of the world, ….. more money for our services, not less, and I believe that other leavers wanted that too.”
He said that the lessons of the past two years have shown that people are not going to get what they voted for. On the contrary, “we are going to get less money for the NHS and less trade with the rest of the world“, and young people need to lead the change that is necessary to convince political leaders and parents to do the right thing .
Jonathan Bartley, the co-leader of the Green Party, was next to speak, and he used the opportunity to ask what kind of Britain people want to live in.
“We stand at a crossroads, and we have to ask ourselves what kind of country we want to be …. the Britain that this government is building doesn’t look like the Britain I am proud of.”
In contrast he outlined his own vision of a fairer open country, and said that it was time for the people to “take back control” from a government that is prepared to sacrifice everything on the altar of Brexit.
In line with the position of his party against Brexit, he also called for a new people’s poll that would be “the first meaningful vote on the future of the country“.
The positive role of the EU in consistently protecting workers’ rights against the UK government’s actions in the past was raised by Mike Buckley, a representative of the Trade Unions.
“We’ve got to be honest with ourselves. There is no Brexit deal that is going to give us better workers rights or more protections. No Brexit deal will give us more jobs… or more opportunities for our young people”.
His talk was followed by Patrick Lohlein of Stop Brexit Ltd, who spoke on the importance of getting organised at a local level and talking to ordinary people rather than engaging in online arguments.
Pointing out some of the Northern groups who had joined the march, he called on the crowd to join the local pro-EU groups in their area, and take part in their street campaigns.
The representative of one local group, Chris Hoffman from EU in Brum, came on stage next with Sorina Stallard, who introduced the EU Flag Relay.
This is an initiative which started as a protest against corruption in Romania with the flag symbolising the protection that the EU gives citizens against their own government. Since then, it has also appeared at pro-EU events in Birmingham, Bristol and at the StopBrexit march on the Conservative Party conference in Manchester.
They were followed by Richard Corbett MEP, who explained why so many people are not happy to accept the results of the EU referendum and “just get on with it”.
Starting with an abbreviated list of broken promises from the Leave campaign, that ranged from economic arguments to security cooperation and the unresolved issue of the Irish border, he made it clear that not everybody who voted Leave was prepared to accept “Brexit at any cost”.
Tom Brufatto of Britain for Europe started his speech by declaring that Brexit was never the “will of the people”, but the will of nationalist politicians and right-wing press barons.
“The Cambridge Analytica scandal has blown the lid off the collusion, the conspiracy and the deliberate attempt to subvert our democracy”
Despite this, he showed optimism in the Remain movement’s growing ability to counter this. This included the fact that the high number of active Remain supporters have made it the powerful movement in the country, and the fact that the Leeds march was being held not in isolation, but in coordination with other rallies around Britain.
Eloise Todd, the CEO of Best for Britain, spoke next, calling for positive action from campaigners to keep the pressure up to make sure Brexit will not happen.
She pointed out that while the government has been trying to hide the impact of Brexit, “the truth will always out”, but that time constraints mean that people need to help get the information on its local impact out by getting the stories into their papers, and sharing the info among friends and colleagues.
Emphasising that “campaigning works”, she called for people to join their local groups, regardless of which organisations they are affiliated to. With only 6 months to secure a people’s vote, she also asked people to keep up the pressure on their MPs by writing to them and getting others to do so.
Lord William Wallace of Saltaire took to the stage next, echoing the call for pressure on MPs from a different angle.
Currently working on the EU Withdrawal Bill, he lamented the fact that despite the Leave campaign’s promise to re-establish parliamentary sovereignty, they were now being told to ignore the detail and just “shut up and get on with it”.
Promising the audience that parliament will have it’s say, he asked for support in keeping up the pressure on MPs via letters in the newspapers, and via direct mail and social media. He ended his talk pointing out that the letters should focus on arguments such as the fact that;
“We have now discovered that Russia is a far bigger threat to our sovereignty than anything we’ve had from anywhere else, and that our friends, who share our values and give us support and solidarity, are our European neighbours”.
The conservative argument for stopping Brexit was taken up by Dirk Hazell, who was one of the first Tories to turn against the rabid Euroscepticism in the party.
His speech gave hope on the potential of getting politicians to do the right thing, by citing examples from Owen Smith who was sacked by Jeremy Corbyn over his principled stance on the previous day, to the recent decision of MEPs Julie Girling and Richard Ashworth to return to the EPP.
He also reminded the crowd that every Tory Prime Minister had supported Britain’s case for staying in the EU, and that the biggest majority he had seen in his lifetime was the 2/3 majority of the centre-left and centre-right coalition to join the EU, and that “our political cause today is bigger than any political party .”
Prof A C Grayling spoke on why opposing Brexit is democratic. Taking issue with the placard of a counter-protester who had been heckling the other speakers, he stressed the importance of not accepting the figure of a 52% majority support for Brexit for a number of reasons.
He explained that only 37% of the electorate had voted Leave, and reminded the crowd that many of those most of affected by Brexit had been deliberately excluded from the vote, including hard-working EU citizens in the UK and British citizens living abroad.
He also went on to say that even if 52% of the entire public had voted Leave, such a small majority is not enough to justify the radical constitutional change that Brexit entails.
Jess Moll a student with Manchester Scientists for EU spoke on the importance of fighting to keep Britain’s place in the European scientific community.
As a young Scientist, I am facing a future of potentially not being able to work in the EU – and my own country due to a lack of funding.
She also called for people to fight for the 75% of young people who voted to remain in the EU, and the disenfranchised 16-17 year olds who weren’t allowed to vote in 2016, but now had to live with the consequences. She spoke of various ways of putting pressure on politicians and engaging with the public, including the need to politely engage with those who voted leave.
“We need to remain strong, we need to remain respectful, we need to remain assertive.”
Elena Remigi, the editor of In Limbo, spoke about the plight of 3 Million non-British EU citizens in the UK. Despite headlines of “settled status”, she explained that their troubles are far from over.
The burden of proof of legal residence doesn’t just mean that the home office has the power to reject applications, but it has led to huge complications for many EU citizens including difficulty in opening bank accounts, applying for loans or mortgages, and discrimination in applying for jobs.
She also spoke of how unwelcome many EU citizens felt, noting a rise in racism and hate crime since the EU Referendum, and she condemned the government for remaining silent on this.
Joan Pons Laplana, a well-known campaigner for EU citizens rights, who has just won the Nurse of the Year award, chose to speak on the how Brexit is worsening problems in the NHS.
“As a nurse I have a duty of care, I have the duty of care to tell you that Brexit may kill the NHS”
He expressed his sadness at seeing fellow EU workers in the NHS leaving the UK on a weekly basis, as they are being made into scapegoats for the failures of government.
“Next time you go to your GP and don’t have an appointment, next time you go to A&E and wait 12 hours, next time you call an ambulance and have to wait 24 hours, please don’t blame me, but blame austerity.”
Sue Wilson, the Chair of Bremain in Spain, spoke on the difficulties of getting the British government to consider the interests of UK citizens living in other EU countries, and emphasised that the best way to protect citizens right is to stop Brexit.
Pointing out that the government no longer pretends that life after Brexit will be better, as its own impact assessments have shown that it won’t, she also noted that the mood of the country is changing. People are no longer talking about when Brexit will happen, but whether it will happen at all.
She finished her speech with a call to intensify the fight to stop Brexit over the next 6 months;
“There is only one Brexit that we will accept, and that is a dead and buried Brexit”
The final speaker at the event was Lord Andrew Adonis, the outspoken Labour peer, who has become a leading figure in the campaign against Brexit.
He made the case that staying in the Customs Union and the Single Market is not acceptable to him, and gave four reasons for this.
The UK’s relations with Ireland was first on the list, as it was membership of the EU and the lack of a hard border that ended centuries of conflict. Secondly, he spoke against the illusion of a world of trade deals for the UK, noting that the recent dispute on steel tariffs with the US was only solved by the joint clout of the EU. Thirdly, he criticised the notion that there was more money for the NHS, as it is clear that the opposite would be the case. Lastly, he pointed out that isolationism is not what people want, and that we would fight to preserve our right to live and work in other EU countries.
He spoke of his hopes that Jeremy Corbyn would vote down whatever deal May was to propose, and the need for a final say by the people on what kind of a relationship they would like with Europe.
He also spoke of the need for European solidarity in an increasingly hostile environment, where fascism is threatening democracy and undermining our joint values.
“Our dream is that Brexit is over; we get over this national nightmare, we rebuild our country, we are one nation, and … we are all Europeans”
We are pleased to announce all 4 co-founders of Our Future Our Choice (OFOC) as speakers for the #StopBrexit Great Northern March on 24 March in Leeds.
Lara Spirit, Femi Oluwole, Will Dry and Calum Millbank-Murphy started OFOC out of frustration over the UK’s political leaders’ failure to face up to the real problems of the country – and their willingness go ahead with Brexit despite the damage it will cause.