On the second anniversary of the Brexit vote, thousands headed to London protests. On Pall Mall , anti-Brexit campaigners with their EU flags. Alongside the Thames a strange version of pro-Brexit UKIP marched. Angry at betrayal , immigration, Islam and the establishment
On Pall Mall over 100 thousand gathered. The mood seemed unhappy rather than outraged. Although the Brexit vote has been said to disenfranchise the young, many protesters were elderly. It was very middle-class. There was a stage performing comedy skits, an artist selling his Brexit portrait and lots of witty placards. They set off past a large Eid festival in Trafalgar Square chatting away. It was all very pleasant. The march ended in Parliament Square where a stage awaited. Activists Tony Robinson, Gina Miller ; politicians Vince Cable and Caroline Lucas gave speeches. The crowd chanted ironically: “ Where’s Jeremy Corbyn.”
What do they want? Another referendum would be good, a vote on the final deal, a soft Brexit at the very least.
250 metres away (272 yards after Brexit) on a closed off Abingdon Street another stage awaits another Brexit march. For these marchers 23rd June is Independence Day but the event was called Brexit Betrayal . Maybe three thousand paraded along Milbank. A mixed bag of UKIP, Free Tommy Robinson campaigners, Generation Identity and the Football Lads Alliance. Chanting: “ Whose streets , our streets.” They were notably younger and angrier than the remainers.UKIP leader Gerard Batten’s gave a speech comparing the referendum to Waterloo, Trafalgar and VE day but said Brexit was being stolen by a remainer establishment.
After the march, organisers from both sides complained about the lack of media coverage, as is routine. Claimed protest numbers had been underestimated, as is routine. Batten estimated 10K had turned up and remainers said as many as 500k.
But two years after the referendum as Brexit meanders along no-one is listening. There was no Independence Day celebration. The free-market Tories who agitated against EU membership for decades barely noted its passing on social media.
On Independence Day 2018, UKIP – the party that did the most to make it happen – are reduced to an anti-Islam sect around whose dimming light alt-right groups cluster. The 16 million that backed Remain are represented by protesters listening politely to Baldrick from Blackadder.
Whatever Brexit is, neither tribe seems to want it but they don’t know anyone who can stop it