‘It’s cause for insurrection’: Anger on streets as Brexit deadline missed

Pro-Brexit supporters outside Westminster are united in little except a sense of betrayal

March 30th, 2019: Thousands of pro-Brexit supporters rally outside the UK parliament as the original leave date, March 29th, passes without Britain leaving the European Union. Video: Reuters

 

The pro-Brexit protest at the Westminster parliament on Friday was meant to be a celebration of Brexit, but it is filled with people draped in Union Jacks talking about “betrayal”.

While remain voters are all similarly sad, leave voters are all angry in different ways. Consequently there are two large stages here. One on Parliament Street is overseen by Ukip and features far-right activist Tommy Robinson, while the other on Parliament Square is run by Leave Means Leave and features Nigel Farage, Kate Hoey and Peter Bone.

Glen Pollock, from Dromore, Co Down, is holding a flag that says: “EU, just building for the Antichrist.” The EU, he says, “is Rome rule by the back door” and the stars of the European flag are based on the stars in the Virgin Mary’s halo. “They’re building a dictatorship,” he says. “The Antichrist is somewhere in the wings … We’re living in the last days.”

Pro-Brexit supporters in Westminster, London. Photograph: Yui Mok/PA Wire
Pro-Brexit supporters in Westminster, London. Photograph: Yui Mok/PA Wire

Robin Willow, holding a home-made sign that reads “You will comply. Resistance is futile” tells me he’s a fraud investigator. “You’re in the right place,” says Ukip member Debbie Lovell, pointing at the parliament. Willow tells me the orchestrators of the EU always planned “to destroy the nation state”.

He says the EU has been hugely damaging to British manufacturing and fisheries. He also says that although immigration isn’t his primary issue, “the government has been replacing the people and resourcing the migrants who come here and act destructively”.

What if the UK doesn’t leave the EU? “It’s potentially a cause for insurrection.”

The pencil myth

Everyone I speak to believes a betrayal has occurred. “I was in the navy aged 15 and risked my life to protect this country,” says David Keoghan. “And now the politicians are not protecting me ... They won’t let us leave.”

His friend Martin Lester believes politicians never intended to leave in the first place. “When I went to vote they insisted on giving us pencils instead of pens so they could change it.”

BREXIT: The Facts

Read them here
A Scottish pipe band called the True Defenders plays and a man in a Trump mask has simulated sex with a Jeremy Corbyn dummy

A man in a Donald Trump mask shouts “Build a wall, baby”. Who’s he with? The yellow vests, he says. “There are lots of groups here. Farage’s crowd, Ukip, the yellow vests. I can’t believe they don’t all join up.”

He’s a fan of Tommy Robinson, he says, because he hates “forced mass migration” and claims that crimes by Muslims are regularly covered up by the police.

“Brexit is not about immigration,” says Joseph Afrane, who is originally from Ghana and is wearing a Union Jack-patterned hat, sunglasses and suit. “I want Britain to spend the billions it gives to the EU on the NHS and on the police.” He came here in 1993, he says, and Britain has been good to him. Britain is good to people, he says, irrespective of “race, creed or sexual orientation”.

Supporters watch as as a march arrives in Westminster from Fulham in the final leg of the March To Leave rally. Photograph: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images
Supporters watch as as a march arrives in Westminster from Fulham in the final leg of the March To Leave rally. Photograph: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Nearby a young electrician, Christopher Anthony Doyle, is arguing with a police liaison officer about how the Crown Prosecution Service is corrupt. He has a lot of things to say to this policeman about this and then he repeats them to me.

Where does he get his information? “Tommy Robinson’s website,” he says. Doyle hitch-hiked here from Manchester. “I want British laws to be enforced and not over-ruled by the EU,” he says. “We need to leave the EU, to feed the hungry and house the homeless.”

Would any of the leaders of the Easter Rising have worried about taking a financial hit to free themselves of the British?

As Parliament Square and the surrounding areas fill, protesters chant and sing. “What do we want? Brexit. When do we want it? Now” is chanted. “Bye bye, EU” is sung to the tune of Auld Lang Syne.

Barrister Paul Ellis holds a banner for the For Britain Movement, a political party formed a year ago. “If Britain doesn’t leave tonight,” he says, “Britain will no longer be a democracy.”

Does he worry about the financial implications of a no-deal Brexit? “Countries have gone to war to gain their independence,” he says. “Would any of the leaders of the Easter Rising have worried about taking a financial hit to free themselves of the British?”

Trump meets Corbyn

A Scottish pipe band called the True Defenders plays and a man in a Trump mask has simulated sex with a Jeremy Corbyn dummy. A seemingly independent march arrives into the square waving flags and chanting, “You can stick the EU up your arse!” This, a man named Wayne tells me, is the DFLA, the Democratic Football Lads Alliance. “We’re against radical Islam,” he says. “We’re not racist,” he adds.

After a while, Farage follows a host of other Brexiteers on to the Leave Means Leave stage “in enemy territory” to talk about how they’ll “get the country back”.

Former Ukip leader Nigel Farage at the March to Leave protest in Parliament Square, Westminster. Photograph: Steve Parsons/PA Wire
Former Ukip leader Nigel Farage at the March to Leave protest in Parliament Square, Westminster. Photograph: Steve Parsons/PA Wire
Far-right leader Tommy Robinson speaks on stage during a Brexit supporters’ rally. Photograph: Neil Hall/EPA
Far-right leader Tommy Robinson speaks on stage during a Brexit supporters’ rally. Photograph: Neil Hall/EPA

On the other stage Tommy Robinson attacks the media, then returns to say that Brexit isn’t about economics but culture and national identity. This part of the crowd is rowdier and, I think, drunker than the rest.

“And you support the politicians,” a man next to me shouts at a young policeman. “You should be ashamed of yourself.”

“Are you angry?” asks Tommy from the stage at one point.

“Yes,” shouts this angry man, and everyone else. They’re all angry. A lot of people in England are very angry.

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