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Major rally in London for second People's Vote on Brexit

March 23, 2019

Organizers claimed a million people from all over the UK came to London for a rally calling for a second referendum on Brexit. It took place as the third parliamentary vote on Brexit appears uncertain next week.

Crowds gather after the march to listen to speakers at a rally organised by the pro-European People's Vote campaign for a second EU referendum in Parliament Square, central London on March 23, 2019
Image: AFP/N. Halle'n

Saturday's second rally calling for a Public Vote on Brexit drew even more people than the 700,000-strong crowd who participated in October's march. Organizers claimed a million people had turned up.

The biggest rally held this century in London, against the war in Iraq, also drew 1 million participants. Saturday's march began at 1200 UTC or "high noon" on London’s Park Lane and headed towards Parliament Square.

Placards called on the Government to "Revoke Article 50" and "We're marching to demand a People's vote" as well as "We love EU."

The rally drew cross-party political support with Labour deputy leader Tom Watson saying he backed a second vote as "the only way" to resolve the Brexit impasse. Also attending were Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable. 

Neither the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, nor shadow chancellor John McDonnell attended the rally.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan from the opposition Labour party said he was marching "with people from every corner of our country, to demand that the British people get the final say."

Green party MP Caroline Lucas compared the turnout with the march of a few dozen supporters walking from the north of England in support of UKIP founder Nigel Farage.

An online petition on the parliamentary websitecalling for Article 50 to be revoked had over 4.4 million signatures by Saturday, despite several crashes on the site.

Former Conservative MP Anna Soubry left her party in February to join the Independent Group and said she had received a death threat over her Brexit position. She too participated in Saturday's march. "We are marching for our country — for the future of our children and grandchildren," she wrote on Twitter.

Conservative MP and former attorney general Dominic Grieve had criticized British Prime Minister Theresa May last week for blaming the House of Commons for the crisis around Brexit, while refusing to accept any responsibility herself. The pro-EU politician told MPs: "I have never felt more ashamed to be a member of the Conservative Party or to be asked to lend her support."

No third vote on Brexit deal?

The prime minister is spending her weekend at the Chequers country estate.

She has suggested she may not bring her Brexit withdrawal deal back to the House of Commons next week if there is insufficient support for it to pass on a third attempt.

Theresa May agreed an extension to the Brexit schedule with the European Council
Theresa May agreed an extension to the Brexit schedule with the European CouncilImage: Getty Images/AFP/L. Marin

May wrote to all MPs on Friday offering to talk to them in the coming days "as parliament prepares to take momentous decisions."

She said there were four clear choices ahead for lawmakers:

  • To vote for her deal a third time — which is dependent on clearance from Commons' speaker John Bercow who has ruled there needs to be substantial change to the previous text for it to be voted on again, citing a law going back to 1604;
  • Presenting an alternative plan to the EU before the new Brexit deadline of April 12;
  • Revoking Article 50, which would end the current Brexit process although not prevent another one, which May said would "betray the result of the referendum;"
  • Leave the EU without a deal, which the House of Commons voted against last week.

May has said another, popular vote would cause "catastrophic harm."

The referendum result in 2016 was 52 percent in favor of Brexit and 48 percent against. 

jm/amp (Reuters, AFP)

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