UK: Tens of thousands of anti-Brexit protesters call for new vote

Pro-EU demonstrators in London demand a second public vote on Britain's departure deal, two years after referendum.

    UK: Tens of thousands of anti-Brexit protesters call for new vote
    Britain is scheduled to leave the EU at 23:00 GMT on March 29, 2019 [Henry Nicholls/Reuters]

    Tens of thousands of people have rallied in central London in one of the biggest anti-Brexit demonstrations, exactly two years after the UK voted to leave the European Union in a referendum that has divided the British nation.

    The pro-EU demonstrators in the British capital called on Saturday for a new vote to have the final say on the country's departure deal with the 28-member European bloc.

    The rally on the second anniversary of Brexit - Britain's exit from the EU - was organised by People's Vote, a coalition of groups campaigning for the UK to stay in the bloc. 

    The organisers said more than 100,000 people attended the rally in London, which voted overwhelmingly in favour of remaining within the EU in 2016.

    "Whatever your opinion on Brexit, no one would disagree that it's a big deal. And not a done deal," the organisers said in a statement, demanding a public vote on the final negotiations. 

    The protesters held EU flags and banners with anti-Brexit slogans as they marched towards the UK Parliament. 

    Protesters take part in the anti-Brexit protest in London [Simon Dawson/Getty Images]

    On June 23, 2016, 52 percent of Britons voted in favour of leaving the EU after more than four decades of membership, but the talks have been slow moving.

    "Two years on, the country appears to be more divided than ever over the future of Britain's relations with the European Union," said Al Jazeera's Neave Barker, reporting from the British capital. 

    "Vast crowds have gathered here in London to make their voices heard," he added. "People say they have much more information now than during the referendum in 2016, so it should now be put to the people once more to decide what should happen post-Brexit."

    Britain and the EU reached a preliminary agreement on the terms of the Brexit divorce in December. 

    The UK's government is legally bound to pay an estimated 40 billion British pounds ($53bn) bill to the EU until 2064. 

    "Since the referendum vote in 2016, a lot has happened; people feel angry," said James McGrory, executive director of Open Britain, a pro-EU campaign group.

    "They feel that the government is making a mess of the negotiations; they feel that new facts have emerged since the referendum that we weren't told about and they feel that promises made during the campaign simply aren't going to be kept," he told Al Jazeera. 

    "And what people are stating is that that this too big an issue to leave to politicians alone - this is going to decide the future of this country."

    Since the referendum, Theresa May, who became prime minister in the resulting political chaos, has struggled to unite the country behind a single vision of Brexit.

    Polls show voters' disparate views on leaving are entrenched, and few have any certainty about Britain's long-term future.

    "We want a people's vote - deal or no deal," said Ann Soubry, a conservative MP. 

    She told Al Jazeera: "It can't be right that 650 politicians sitting in parliament who amongst themselves as indeed the government and the cabinet decide on this issue. I think 65 million people in our country should have a vote on the final deal."

    Britain is scheduled to leave the EU at 23:00 GMT on March 29, 2019. 

    What's next for Brexit?

    Inside Story

    What's next for Brexit?

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera News


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