New London Brexit protest planned for Brits abroad

An alternative Brexit protest is being organised in London on Saturday October 12 especially for those such as Britons in France who have booked unrefundable travel tickets for that date, after organiser People’s Vote changed the date of its planned march to the following weekend.

The additional event (see here) has different organisers and will be a static rally rather than a march. The precise time and place has yet to be confirmed.

Many Britons living abroad including members of the British in Europe Brexit rights campaign groups (such as British Community Committee of France and Rift) booked plane tickets or hotel rooms for the weekend of October 12-13 for a march that had been planned for two months. It was planned as a follow-up to a similar one on March 23 which organisers said attracted a million people.

However on Monday supporters of People’s Vote, which campaigns for another Brexit referendum with a Remain option, received an email from the body signed by celebrity backer Stephen Fry in which they were told the date was changing to a week later because ‘the original date would have clashed with a sponsored run’ for the Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) in Hyde Park.

This is despite the fact People’s Vote had police permission for the planned date of October 12.

The new date means the march will be held after the European Council holds its last scheduled summit before the expected Brexit date, on October 17-18.

Many Britons on social media questioned why People's Vote had not been aware of the GOSH children’s hospital fundraiser, which has been organised annually for ten years (and has been on the second Saturday in October in Hyde Park since 2017), and why the organisers could not have held the march in the afternoon as the fun run is at 10.00 and entertainments in the park are scheduled to end by 14.00. Others suggested the march route could perhaps have been changed to avoid the Hyde Park area.

Some posters said the events might have complemented each other with some people going to both and many expressed annoyance at the lack of an apology or acknowledgement that some will have made plans and incurred expenses for the original date.

However a staff member at People’s Vote said they have had discussions with GOSH and “unfortunately due to the huge numbers of people that we are expecting and the strain on public transport this will cause it would just not be possible”. The organisers also had concerns about possible risks to safety of children travelling to and from the GOSH event and said that the event did not come up in their initial searches while planning the march.

The staff member added that their last big protest was also just after a European Council summit and shortly before the UK was (originally) meant to leave the EU. They anticipate once again that the decisions about Brexit will once again “go down to the wire”.

This comes in a context that is more acrimonious between the UK and EU than was the case in March, when then Prime Minister Theresa May was attempting to persuade the UK parliament to pass the negotiated deal.

Organisers of the new protest Rally for Our Rights (R4OR), say their event is particularly (though not exclusively) aimed at ‘the five million’, referring to over three million EU citizens who live abroad in the UK and almost two million Britons living abroad in the EU.

It will especially focus on the loss of rights that Brexit, especially a ‘no-deal’ Brexit, would bring.

They say however those able to go to both protest events should do so and their event does not replace the People’s Vote march on October 19. They would like people to register for their rally, free of charge, to obtain an idea of the level of support. People can also obtain updates at their Twitter page.

R4OR say they launched their plans after “social media became awash with messages from people who had already paid for their travel to London on October 12”.

Some campaigners also plan to visit the Sodem protest (held 11.00 to 18.00 outside the Houses of Parliament every day) on the same day; meanwhile there is also a 'sit-down protest' planned in Parliament square at 13.00. 

British in Europe are discussing their possible official involvement with the new rally event, but members of the campaign groups who are able to will still be attending the People's Vote march.

This comes as British politics is once again in turmoil this week with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn offering to call a vote of no confidence in the prime minister with a view to leading a temporary ‘national unity government’ of several parties, which Labour proposes would ask the EU for a Brexit extension and then hold a general election in which Labour would promise a new referendum with an option to Remain.

Several smaller parties including the SNP, Greens and Plaid Cymru have expressed interest in discussing the idea with Mr Corbyn but Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson has refused to support a Corbyn-led government and has suggested better potentional leaders could include veteran MPs Ken Clarke (Conservative) or Harriet Harman (Labour).

Ms Swinson states she has spoken to both MPs and either is willing to step in to led a ‘caretaker government’.

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