Brexit

While I feel sure that Brexit is a serious mistake for the country, I did expect Theresa May’s government would implement it in a professional way that minimized the damage. But it soon became clear that May herself lacked many key skills as a politician. Unable to get her own supporters to agree what Brexit meant, and unwilling to compromise and seek wider consensus on the way forward, she called an election and fought a remarkably-lacklustre campaign which cost her the Parliamentary majority and led to paralysis. Brexit had quickly made the UK a laughing stock.

In October 2018 I went on the “People’s March” to demand a vote on the final deal and overturn the referendum. I then started photographing the protests outside Parliament whenever I fancied the short bus ride or the 3/4 hour walk from leafy Dulwich into central London. This is a selection of my favourites.

Also see blog posts tagged with Brexit. These are mainly short videos of the more eventful days.

The People’s March

On Oct 20, 2018 around 700,000 people from all over Britain marched through central London demanding a second referendum on the final Brexit deal. Beginning in Hyde Park, the march filled the streets from Park Lane to a rally in Parliament Square.

No confidence in Theresa May

The last months of 2018 were dominated by Theresa May’s failure to convince hard-line Brexiters in her own party to support her interpretation of Brexit. It was around that time that I began making more trips into central London specifically to take pictures outside Parliament.

Jacob Rees-Mogg

This area just outside Parliament was where far right protesters had obstructed and jostled the anti-Brexit MP Anna Soubry. Arrests and an increased police presence changed the mood and allowed pro- and anti-Brexit protesters to mix again and disagree in friendly ways. Here the leading pro-Brexit opponent of Theresa May stopped to talk with Mr Stop Brexit, Steve Bray, was interviewed for TV, and could meet admirers. It was interesting to spend 15 minutes so close to him, and these photos give a fair impression of how I encountered Rees-Mogg in person. Deluded but charming – he reminded me of Tony Benn!

The Vote to Delay Brexit

In February and March a series of evening votes defeated Theresa May’s deal, failed to pass amendments, and ruled out leaving without any deal. On March 14 Parliament instructed the government to delay Brexit, then only two weeks away, to allow time to reach an agreement for a less-damaging transition. Large numbers of anti-Brexit protesters gathered that evening. Sometimes noisy far right Pro-Brexit protesters turned up, trying to intimidate and singing loud football-style chants.

Put it to the People March

March 23, 2019 saw a million people marching through central London, again filling the streets from Park Lane to Parliament Square. By that time, 5 million had already signed an online petition demanding the revocation of Article 50, the UK’s notice to leave the EU.

A crowd-funded campaign bought advertising space such as a billboard on a collapsing building… and simply quoted Brexit advocates’ promises from before the 2016 vote. In Westminster a journalist looks out from the Sky News gazebo at flags reflected in the clear plastic window which shields its broadcasts from the noise of protesters.

March to Leave

March 29, 2019 was when Brexit had originally been due to happen and the Leave EU group had scheduled its 200-mile March To Leave from Sunderland to arrive in Parliament Square on that day. Since details of its route were not publicized, I went to its start in Fulham and followed the marchers through some of London’s most prosperous and pro-Remain areas.

I then took a bus to central London and waited for the marchers’ arrival in Parliament Square. The rally only just filled the square and was mostly good-natured, though many more police than usual protected the media village. UKIP had a big screen yards from the Cenotaph, the national war memorial, and showed a video featuring Tommy Robinson, a convicted fraudster and founder of the far right EDL group.

Further delays

By Spring 2019 paralysis had set in. Theresa May couldn’t get her own side to support her form of Brexit, and a cross-party majority in the House of Commons forced her to delay Brexit until October.

European Elections

Talks between May and Corbyn faltered, perhaps inevitably, and protests continued outside Parliament, especially on Wednesdays before and after PMQs. In Trafalgar Square, a flashmob gathered to sing Ode to Joy, and Brexit’s delay meant that the European parliamentary elections were held on May 23 with Nigel Farage’s new Brexit party forecast to win the largest share of votes.

Theresa May resigns

After three failures to get Parliament to approve her Brexit deal, and anticipating big losses in the European elections, Theresa May announced her resignation. In June the Conservative Party began an election to succeed her, leaving the country no clearer about how the Brexit mess would be resolved.