Brexit, berets and interpretive dance - how thousands marched to demand UK rejoin the EU

Remainers had their say as they bumped elbows with Bully XL and Ulez protesters in central London

Barney Davis
Saturday 23 September 2023 20:20 BST
Pro-EU campaigners descend upon streets of London for National Rejoin March

Thousands of Remainers flooded central London with a sea of blue flags and yellow stars as they demanded the country overturn the 2016 Referendum result and rejoin the EU.

A large crowd of pro-EU protestors gathered in Parliament Square for the National Rejoin March (NRM) on Saturday. Former Belgian PM Guy Verhofstadt and Remainer Queen Gina Miller united to lead the march before addressing the large gathering.

Peter Corr, leader and co-founder of NRM, said he decided to organise the march as it “felt like everyone had given up” on the cause.

Protesters marched from Hyde Park to Palace of Westminster in central London

European MP and former Brexit negotiator Guy Verhofstadt (3rdL) and anti-Brexit campaigner Gina Miller (2ndL) take part in a rally calling for the UK to rejoin the EU

Mr Corr, a lorry driver from Derby, said: “Brexit was a huge mistake, we’re all – especially working class and poorer people – paying for it and we need to do something about it.”

He said 60 per cent of the country, and 80 per cent of people aged under 25, consistently say they would rejoin the EU in polls, adding: “I hate racism and xenophobia and that’s just what a big part of that Vote Leave campaign really felt like to me.”

Supporters donned EU flags, facepaint, berets and in the case of one group, staged an interpretive dance routine as they were headed from west London to the heart of government.

There were flashes of confrontation as pro-EU activists were heckled by protesters out in London to oppose Sadiq Khan’s expansion of Ulez and to oppose Rishi Sunak’s planned ban on XL Bully dogs.

Brexit critic Gareth Kearns, 53, said one driver had given the crowd nearing a thousand strong the finger as he rounded Hyde Park Corner.

“Another guy shouted ‘you’re wasting your time’,” he told The Independent. “Firstly, if you’re practising democracy it’s never a waste of time.

“Secondly don’t you have a different argument against us? They can’t. They have got nothing.”

Protesters claimed Brexit had “broken” British politics

Fellow protester Madeleina Kay, 29, said the country took a “darker turn” after the Brexit referendum.

The winner of the Young European of the Year 2018 told The Independent: “I was very disappointed I thought it was a different country. But 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 and 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.”

Anne Iacovazzo was among the pro-EU crowd

Anne Iacovazzo, 62, is a mother of two children who were born in France and raised in the UK. She is particularly concerned about the impact of pollution and believes regulation would be tighter in the EU.

She said: “Pollution is just one of the reasons I’m here there are so many. I’m married to an Italian so my kids have an Italian passport but their friends do not.

“The government let water companies dump sewage because of the supply chain crisis.

“The EU rules wouldn’t allow that. We have more pesticides we aren’t testing meat coming from Brazil. I’ve stopped eating meat completely now to avoid it.”

Eric Stoch was painted head to toe in blue body paint for the march

The enthusiastic and colourful crowd saw a wide range of ages from childen to pensioners.

Eric Stoch, 23, north London, painted head to toe in blue body paint said: “I think everyone young and old can see it’s a disaster.

“We don’t have much left of a democracy at all getting out on the streets is one of the few beacons of democracy have left.”

This dance routine continued along the march route

MEP Terry Reintke, co-president of the Greens group, said the EU’s “door would be open” to a possible return by the UK.

“When I see thousands of Europeans in the streets it makes me so hopeful that we will be back together again,” she told the crowd. “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.

“The next steps are clear: we want you back in the Erasmus programme and want closer trade links.

“We want colleagues of UK to be re-elected into the EU as soon as possible. We are still with you, we love you and we want you back.”

The march attracted Remainers of all ages

Protester Steve Bray, better known as the Stop Brexit Man, called for a fair and honest proportional representation system before begging the crowd to tactically vote to remove the Conservatives. He confirmed will be bringing his megaphone to their Manchester conference next month.

“We don’t want to be at [the] Labour conference at all but Brexit is the elephant in the room,” he told the crowd. “They are all in denial.”

The Green Party’s Zack Polanski told the audience “Brexit has failed”.

Steve Bray is an ardent critic of Brexit

”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.”

Activist Femi Oluwole told crowds that Brexit “broke” British politics.

“Our politicians aren’t experts – Boris Johnson studied Greek poetry at university,” he said to laughs.

“We are tired of being deliberately hurt by our own politicians. We can barely afford food, we can’t afford Brexit.”

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