Brexit

While I believe that Brexit is a serious mistake for Britain, I have always doubted that the vote can be reversed. I just expected the dull, bureaucratic Theresa May would deliver a sensible, orderly transition. But it was soon clear that she was out of her depth, retreating into a narrowly-partisan interpretation of Brexit, and she made the situation even more chaotic by throwing away her control of Parliament in a shambolic election which she had chosen to fight. After first shocking and horrifying Europe, Brexit had made the UK a laughing stock.

So in October 2018 I went on the big march to demand a vote on the final deal, taking pictures too, and I then started photographing the daily protests outside Parliament whenever I fancied the short bus ride – or a long walk – from home in leafy Dulwich. This is a  selection of my favourites, and also see blog posts tagged with Brexit.

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. If I was in central London anyway, my route went past Parliament and so I would stop to take a few pictures, but on the days of big votes I would make the trip and spend a few hours there.

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!

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 crowdfunded 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, so the Leave EU group had scheduled its march from Sunderland to arrive in London that day. Since details of its route were not publicized, I went to its start in Fulham, followed it through some of London’s most prosperous and pro-Remain areas, then took a bus to Parliament Square and waited for the marchers’ arrival.

Parliament Square was busy but wasn’t quite filled by the rally. It was mostly good-natured, though many more police than usual surrounded the media village. UKIP had a big screen in Whitehall, yards from the Cenotaph, and showed a video featuring Tommy Robinson, a convicted fraudster and founder of the far right EDL group.

Brexit Delayed

By Spring 2019 paralysis had set in. Theresa May couldn’t get hardliners on her own side to support her form of Brexit, and a cross-party majority in the House of Commons forced her to delay Brexit and ruled out leaving without a transition deal.