Pro-Brexit protest outside Parliament scaled down after thousands fail to turn up

Thousands pledged to protest against High Court ruling on Article 50 - but only around 100 people turned up

Benjamin Kentish
Wednesday 23 November 2016 20:09
Pro-Brexit protest in Parliament Square

Organisers of a supposedly major protest outside Parliament to express their anger at a High Court ruling on Brexit appear to have been disappointed after only a small number of people turned up.

A range of pro-Brexit groups had invited around 15,000 people to the event, with almost 2,000 confirming they were planning to attend.

However, it appears only around 100 demonstrators showed up.

The protest was timed to coincide with Chancellor Philip Hammond’s Autumn Statement, with organisers claiming “the world’s media will be covering the event, giving the 52% [who voted for Brexit] maximum exposure to make their voices heard”.

Despite the lower-than-expected turnout, those who were there waved Union Jack flags and placards saying “Keep calm and accept our vote” and “Respect the people’s voice”, along with banners reading “Traitors to democracy”.

Others people carried signs reading “May, May, don’t delay, we want Brexit straight away”.

It comes weeks after the High Court ruled that Parliament must be given a say on Brexit. A legal case brought by campaigners including Gina Miller, an investment manager, successfully argued that Theresa May should not be able to trigger Article 50 – the process by which Britain will leave the EU – without a vote of Parliament.

The decision led Brexit supporters to organise protests in several UK cities.

The organisers said: “It’s time for all Brexiteers to come together once more and stand up for our democracy.

“This protest is to remind our judges and MPs of how passionately we feel about our democracy, and to let them know that we will not remain silent while privileged establishment figures attempt to change, dilute and disrespect what the people voted for to suit their own agendas."

The event was organised by a range of groups including The People’s Charter, Brexit Feet, Young Britons for Liberty and Brexit Revolution. Similar events were due to take place across the UK.

Speaking at the protest outside Parliament, Conservative Jacob Rees-Mogg MP said: “As the great Boris Johnson might say, we came, we saw, we conquered. We have to make sure it is continued until the end and that we leave as soon as soon.

He thanked the demonstrators “for the terrific work you do representing the mass of the British people who want to take back control of our country”.

“It is a great time to be British. The future for our country is fantastic and will lead a golden economic age. As the Americans would say, God bless the United Kingdom”.

The rally was also addressed by David Davies, the Conservative MP who caused controversy last month by suggesting refugees entering the UK should be subjected to dental checks to confirm their age, and former Ukip leadership candidate Liz Jones.

Another demonstration is being planned for 4 December.

Luke Nash-Jones, the Founder of the People's Charter Foundation, told the Independent: "Any suggestion that the organisers directed people to 'scale down' protest preparations is wrong - no such action was ever taken. Facebook was used to advertise the protest but certainly no official statement was ever made by the People's Charter Foundation to imply that every person who showed interest in a social media listing would attend. We actually were very pleased with the turnout for the protest, where there were far more people present than your article implies, estimated through the duration of the day to be nearer a thousand, as can be seen from the video footage on our Facebook page. This is the first of a series of protests, and witnessing the passion of the crowd present, it is clear this nascent movement has great potential to grow."

* Update: This article has been updated to included a comment from Luke Nash-Jones, the Founder of the People's Charter Foundation, who took issue with the estimate our report placed on the number of attendees at the event. He also wished to make clear that none of the organisers had 'scaled down' the event. We are glad to clarify the organisers' position. 10/1/17

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