Senior Conservatives under fire after dismissing march for fresh Brexit referendum as ‘desperate stuff’

Leading Tories accused of ‘sniping at the huge numbers of people in this country who want to make their voice heard’

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Sunday 17 February 2019 15:45 GMT
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Senior Tories were accused of “sniping” at the huge numbers of campaigners set to take part in a march for a fresh Brexit referendum, a day after it was announced.

A Brexit minister, Martin Callanan, came under fire after he branded next month’s Put It To The People march – part of The Independent’s Final Say campaign – “desperate stuff”.

James Cleverly, a Conservative vice-chairman, tweeted sarcastically: “The only thing that might make me change my mind is a bloke in a blue hat with yellow stars shouting ‘Stop Brexit’. Yep, that might do it.”

The reaction came despite last October’s demonstration attracting up to 700,000 people in London alone – and fuelling support for a new referendum at Westminster.

Anna Turley, a Labour supporter of the People’s Vote campaign, said the two men were “sniping at the huge numbers of people in this country who want to make their voice heard”.

“Ministers should listen to the calls of those who feel betrayed by broken Brexit promises, worried about the damage caused by either this deal or no deal, as well as those who just want clarity and closure about our country’s direction – rather than years more of argument and division,” she said.

The next demonstration will be staged in London on Saturday 23 March, just six days before the UK’s scheduled departure from the EU.

That decision still hangs in the balance, with the EU refusing changes demanded by Theresa May to reverse the crushing defeat of her divorce deal last month and cabinet ministers threatening resignation.

Backed by The Independent, the march will provide the public with another opportunity to tell the government that voters must be “given the Final Say on any Brexit deal”.

Politicians of all parties have welcomed the announcement, arguing the event is likely to come at a pivotal moment, as the stalemate in parliament drags on.

Cabinet ministers have refused to rule out Ms May waiting until the eve of Brexit before a second “meaningful vote” by MPs, in what has been criticised as a form of “blackmail”.

Meanwhile, Labour grassroots anger with Jeremy Corbyn has grown, as he has refused to throw his weight behind a referendum – in breach of the party’s Brexit policy, say the delegates who wrote it.

The Independent is campaigning for a fresh public vote through its Final Say campaign, with more than 1.1 million people having signed our petition.

Support surged after last October’s unprecedented turnout, when “the crowds stretched so far back that plenty of people never even made it to the rally”.

The 23 March demonstration will begin at 12pm – “high noon” – on London’s Park Lane, leading to a rally and speeches by supporters in Parliament Square.

It will be staged the day after a crucial EU summit, potentially the prime minister’s last chance to secure concessions to avert the no-deal Brexit she has threatened, if her deal does not pass.

For more details about the Put It To The People march – and to sign up – please visit

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