Brexit

Regardless of my view that leaving the EU is bad for the country, after the shock of the 2016 referendum I had expected that any British government would manage Brexit in a pragmatic way that most of us could accept. Dealt a tough hand, but out of her depth as a politician, it soon became clear that Theresa May was both unwilling to seek wider consensus and unable to get her supporters to agree what Brexit meant. To strengthen her hand she called an election but fought the campaign so ineptly that she sacrificed her Parliamentary majority and yet remained in office powerless to force through her Brexit. The lies and deceptions of Brexit had made the UK an international laughing stock, so much so that German comedy shows now make fun of the British, which is wrong, just wrong.

In October 2018 I went on the “People’s March” to demand a vote on the final deal which would overturn the referendum. From then on whenever I fancied the hour-long walk into central London or the quick bus ride from my home in leafy Dulwich, I started photographing the protests outside Parliament.

This is a selection of my favourite pictures, but also see my Instagram and blog posts on Brexit which are mainly links to short YouTube videos of the more eventful days and curious moments.

The People’s March

In October 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 the rally in Parliament Square.

No confidence in Theresa May

Over the winter of 2018-19 Theresa May tried to convince Brexit hard-liners in her own party to support her Brexit, and it was around that time that I began making more frequent trips into central London to take pictures outside Parliament.

Far right thugs lurk around the legitimate pro-Brexit protesters and one evening I caught them trying to encircle Mr Stop Brexit’s car. After they had tried to intimidate the anti-Brexit MP Anna Soubry, increased policing restored the mood and allowed pro- and anti-Brexit protesters to mix and disagree in reasonable, friendly ways, so one morning I spotting the leading pro-Brexit MP Jacob Rees-Mogg stopping to talk with Mr Stop Brexit and to meet admirers. I spent 15 minutes close to him and these photos give a fair impression of how I encountered Rees-Mogg in person. Deluded but charming, he strongly reminded me of Tony Benn.

Put it to the People March

Over the winter of 2019 a series of evening votes rejected Theresa May’s deal and on then instructed the government to delay Brexit, only two weeks away, to allow time to reach an agreement for a less-damaging transition.

On March 23 a million people marched 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

The Leave EU group had scheduled its 200-mile March To Leave from Sunderland to arrive in London on March 29, 2019, which had been Brexit Day until it was delayed. I followed the march from Fulham through some of the capital’s most prosperous and pro-Remain areas, then moved ahead and waited for the marchers’ arrival at the rally in Parliament Square. The square was only just full and the atmosphere was mostly good-natured, though a lot of police protected the media village and UKIP’s big screen next to the Cenotaph, the national war memorial, showed a video featuring Tommy Robinson, a convicted fraudster and founder of the far right EDL group.

European Elections

By Spring 2019 paralysis had set in. Theresa May still couldn’t get her own side to support her deal with the EU and a cross-party majority in the House of Commons forced her to delay Brexit again. Protests continued outside Parliament, a T Rex arrived on St George’s Day, and in Trafalgar Square a flashmob sang Ode to Joy before marching on Downing Street. Brexit’s delay meant that the European parliamentary elections had to be held on May 23 and Nigel Farage’s new Brexit party was likely to win the largest share of votes.

Boris Johnson

After Theresa May’s resignation the Conservative Party then spent two months choosing her successor, Boris Johnson, who pledged to take Britain out of the EU by the arbitrary date of 31 October, whatever the costs. Protests greeted his arrival in Downing Street, continued outside the Cabinet Office in Whitehall where his team was planning his kamikaze Brexit during the summer recess, then grew again when Johnson suspended Parliament to make it harder for MPs to question his actions.