At Parliament Square in London Brexiteers are celebrating Britain's departure from the EU in the rain. Cars are still driving by. They're all waiting for familiarly triumphalist speeches from Nigel Farage, Ann Widdecombe, Wetherspoon's Tim Martin and others.
All afternoon a few thousand people have been waving Union, St George's and American flags while singing "Goodbye EU" to the tune of Auld Lang Syne. A stall is giving out free "English apples" while a man sells UK flags made in China (I checked). An Elvis impersonator sings Elvis songs rewritten to reflect British/EU relations. Another man spends the day ostentatiously standing on an EU flag. People ring bells.
Craig Thorpe, from 'Bikers for Brexit', tells me that Brexit is going to be so successful most EU countries will also leave. Voting Leave is more about sovereignty than immigration for him, he says. He runs a taxi firm and has many foreign drivers.
“But migration is out of control, isn’t it?” says Jason Roberts.
Kev Blackburn, who's wearing a red Donald Trump hat, knows a man who can help. What if Trump doesn't give them a good trade deal? "Like making us eat chlorinated chicken?" says another man.
“I’m going veggie anyway,” says Blackburn.
Geoff Courtenay is holding a sign that says “bye bye EU” a few times. He’s a “kipper” he says (UKIPer) but he’s worried about “the border down the Irish Sea”. He says border trade can surely be handled technologically and that Ireland “will have to have a sensible immigration policy”.
Dan Day is setting up a table for a petition with the help of a little girl dressed as a Crusader. His huge placard reads: "We the Sovereign Citizens of the United Kingdom demand a redress of our God-given right to Liberty, Free Speech, Assembly, Self-defence, National Self-Determination and Christian Faith." He has a small gun pinned to his lapel. "It's a Thompson," he says. "An English gun." (It's not an English gun). "We should have the right to bear arms."
But why? “Coming from an Irishman?” he says. “You should know why.”
Nigel Marcham, “The Little Veteran”, is an activist affiliated with Never Surrender, a group that objects to trying veterans for crimes in service. Some of his friends wave flags featuring the Red Hand of Ulster. He’s accompanied by “The Active Patriot” who’s here today livestreaming everything on YouTube. The Active Patriot wears a T-shirt with the slogan: “It’s okay to be white”.
“I made it specially for today,” he says. “Is there something wrong with being white?”
Marcham talks at length about “racism against white people”. Eventually, I say that all of the problems he rails against sound like a product of right-wing classist policies rather than race and I point out that the British parliament is largely made up of white people. “It should be!” says Marcham.
In St Stephen’s Tavern, a middle-aged woman responds to a man shouting “Get Brexit Done” by saying: “Brexit is the worst possible thing for refugees, for women, for children for disabled people”.
“How did we win two world wars then?” he says.
At around three, a small pro-EU protest march arrives and is greeted by people screaming “Fifth columnists!” and “Traitorous scum!”. A man gathers a ring of photographers around him as he burns what he says is an EU flag. “Was that really an EU flag?” someone asks. “It doesn’t look like the right colour.”
“All I know is that it wasn’t my flag,” he says.
A woman screams into a policeman's face that he's part of an institution that condones child abuse. A man from the English Defence League shouts at me: "You're the Irish journalist. You can go right f**king back home." He has apparently just seen me on Active Patriot's live stream. Later I see him dancing blissfully to Sweet Caroline as it plays from a speaker on a truck.
Judith Clementson has come from Portsmouth and says she’s been “fighting for this longer than Nigel”. In 1997, she ran for parliament with Jimmy Goldsmith’s Referendum Party. She wants sovereignty and “controlled” migration but believes most people here haven’t actually read the withdrawal agreement. She fears Britain will be embroiled with the EU for a long time. So, why is she here? “I’m celebrating the end of the beginning,” she says.
Sixty-four-year old leaver Jeremy Ruygrok is explaining himself to a slightly exasperated remain-voter called Anthony. Ruygrok is a half-Dutch Taoist whose father was a follower of the mystic Aleister Crowley. He has lived all over the world but his business was ripped off, he says, and now he's homeless in London. He's been energised by Brexit, he says, "but Britain has been lost to cultural Marxists".
Anthony can’t believe what he’s hearing: “But you’ve literally just won!”
“I’ve been black pilled,” says Ruygrok before explaining “the pills”. To be blue pilled, he explains, is to be ignorant of the world’s deep conspiracies. To be red pilled is to see them. To be black pilled is to see them but still believe all is lost. He thinks a civil war is on the horizon. “I don’t really have hope for the future.” He laughs. “But let them have their day.”
He’s planning to leave Britain. Where will he go? “Orban’s Hungary” he says.
“But you can’t travel there freely anymore,” says Anthony. “You voted for that!”
“Orban has said he’ll take us in. They’ve got things right over there.”