Demonstrators from National Rejoin March, express their support for rejoining the EUropean Union outside the Houses of Parliament in London on Saturday. Reuters
At Parliament Square, speakers, including former Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt and high-profile campaigner Gina Miller – who masterminded an anti-Brexit legal challenge – addressed the crowd.
“I think everyone young and old can see it’s a disaster,” said Eric Stock, 23 from north London, who was painted from head to toe in blue body paint. He added: “We don’t have much left of a democracy at all. Getting out on the streets is one of the few beacons of democracy we have left.”
Ceira Sergeant, a leader in the youth wing of the rejoin movement, said she was too young to vote in the 2016 referendum.
She said: “Everytime I come to London I’m stunned by just how positive everyone is. It’s the best turnout I have ever seen.
“I have true faith we will rejoin in my lifetime. In the last year this movement has grown exponentially.
“Everybody in power needs to wake up to what young people especially want.”
However, not everyone was in support. One motorist heckled the activists, shouting: “You’re wasting your time.” But others on an open top bus passing the rally gave their thumbs up to the cheering activists.
It was the second annual march held – although this year’s event started off slowly, the crowds swelled in the sunshine like last year when thousands of people joined. Those taking part want to put rejoining the EU back on the agenda.
It comes as The Independent reveals Keir Starmer held secret talks with Emmanuel Macron about Brexit. The Labour leader has said he will seek to improve the government’s Brexit deal – but also insisted there is no case for rejoining the EU, its single market, or customs union.
As the march started, Madeleina Kay, 29, said the country had taken a “darker turn” after the Brexit referendum in 2016.
Ms Kay, who was awarded Young European of the Year by the Schwarzkopf Foundation in 2018, said: “I was very disappointed, thought it was a different country. The only people I’m angry at are the politicians because they lied to us.
“They’ve let everybody down and we can see the consequences of that now, the cost of living crisis, they have taken rights away from us.
“Rejoining is going to be a long campaign but the younger people voted Remain and that is the future.”
Proud Welshman Gareth Kearns, 53, said: “People always say only old people for Brexit is sort of true but when you get to the very elderly the people who actually remember the Second World War they are with us. But they can’t be expected to go on a long march from here, they all take a shorter route.”
On the march reaching Parliament Square, dancers waved EU flags while preparations were made for the speeches. German MEP Terry Reintke told those watching: “When I see thousands of Europeans in the streets it makes me so hopeful that we will be back together again.
“The EU is far from perfect we know this. We live in a cost of living crisis, we see war in Ukraine where the geopolitical situation is really hard. Europeans are struggling. It’s even more important for EU to stand together.
“People are clear we want the UK to be part of that, we want the UK to rejoin the European Union. We are still with you, we love you and we want you back.”
The Green Party’s Zack Polanski proudly declared “Brexit has failed” as he took to the stage. “It has been a disaster for the climate crisis,” he said.
“But most of all it’s hitting the poorest and the most vulnerable in the country the hardest. They have been lied to. We will be heard, we will stand up and be counted. Our cause is just, our commitment unwavering. The young people know what needs to be done let’s make sure our future is in Europe.”
The president of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen said on Friday there had been better progress in recent talks on a post-Brexit trade deal, but more work is needed. Given the slow pace, talks were set to move to London next week,
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said on Wednesday it was unlikely the European Union would reach any decision on Brexit at this week’s summit in Brussels.
"It is with great regret that I have had to conclude that as things stand, there is still not sufficient support in the House to bring back the deal for a third meaningful vote," May told the House of Commons.
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