Rival anti-Brexit groups row over whether March for Europe protest is cancelled or not

Groups sent out conflicting messages

Jon Stone
Political Correspondent
Thursday 23 March 2017 20:38
The March for Europe last summer
The March for Europe last summer

Rival pro-EU campaign groups are sending out mixed messages about whether a planned anti-Brexit demonstration will go ahead in London on Saturday.

The March for Europe had long been planned to assemble at Park Lane, moving to Westminster – seeking to emulate a demonstration after the referendum last summer attended by tens of thousands of people.

However the European Movement, which is chaired by former Tory MP Stephen Dorrell, has told its supporters to stay away at the last minute because of the burden that the march might place on police in the aftermath of Wednesday’s terror attack.

“In discussions with the police it has been made clear to us that although they will not prevent the march going ahead, it represents an enormous burden at a time when they need to concentrate on the investigation into the terrorist attack in Westminster,” Mr Dorrell said in a message to the group’s email list.

“It is with sadness that we want to advise you not to travel on Saturday as we do not wish to add to that burden.”

Mr Dorrell said he hoped that another march could be arranged on another day.

The claim that the march was off was immediately disputed by another campaign group, Unite for Europe, however.

A message posted on that group’s website said: “We have spoken to the police and the GLA. We can confirm that the march will go ahead. All plans remain the same.

“We will only move to our contingency if the police are still investigating the crime scene come Saturday. Our contingency will include the same march start point and time with an alternate end point nearby.”

The group added that it would “not be intimidated” and would observe a period of silence for the victims of Wednesday’s attack.

The row spilled over onto social media, with rival Twitter accounts promoting the march initially at loggerheads about whether it was going ahead.

The rows led to accusations by some supporters of the march that "fake" disinformation was being spread about whether the march was going ahead or not.

One separate conspiracy theory suggested that the European Movement's statement was faked; however this has been verified by The Independent.

The march comes just days ahead of the planned triggering of Article 50 by Theresa May. MPs and peers passed a bill to give the Prime Minister the power to formally start EU negotiations last week.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

View comments