Hundreds of Bath for Europe supporters of all ages joined the huge ‘Together for the Final Say’ march in London on Saturday 19th October. Our group sent eight coaches of supporters – including one coach of students from the University of Bath – to one of the biggest protests in the nation’s history. In an interview with Radio Bristol’s Ali Vowles, Rebecca Hilliard, one of the coach monitors, said that over 500 people from Bath would be going. “I believe we’re having a real impact,” she said. “Going on marches is a way of making our voices heard.” Supporters also made their way from Bath by train and car. Estimates vary; between 1 and 2.2 million marchers took to the capital’s streets to call for a People’s Vote on any Brexit deal.
Before the coaches set off from Bath for the march, Emma Knaggs, Chair of Bath for Europe, was interviewed by Sky News. Explaining the rationale for having a final say on Brexit she said, “Now that there is actually a negotiated deal and we know what Brexit genuinely looks like and the reality of it, I think it’s only fair for everyone to have a ratification and a confirmation that this is really the Brexit that people voted for, now that this is on offer.”
Emma made the important point that “It’s not just people who voted Remain who are taking part in today’s march. For example, there will be many members of the organisation Remainer Now, who represent those who voted Leave but have changed their minds. And for many people who voted Leave, this is not the deal that they had in mind when they voted. As Nigel Farage says himself, the current deal on offer is nowhere near as good as staying in the EU. It would actually be worse.”
This march, the latest of several held since the referendum, had an acute sense of urgency as it coincided with the extraordinary session of Parliament called to discuss the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal. It felt as if there was an even greater sense of determination to manifest the will of all the people who do not support Brexit. The march route took protestors from Park Lane to Trafalgar Square and ultimately to Parliament Square for rousing speeches by a wide array of campaigners and politicians from across the political spectrum. The audience heard from Sir Patrick Stewart, Sandi Toksvig, MPs Jess Phillips, Diane Abbott, Sir Keir Starmer, Jo Swinson, Layla Moran, and many others.
Chanting marchers literally made their voices heard as MPs – among them Bath’s MP Wera Hobhouse – sat in the chamber in the Houses of Parliament. As the crowd waited tensely outside, MPs passed a backbench amendment withholding their support for the Prime Minister’s deal. The result was met with loud cheers. As a result, Mr. Johnson was forced to write to the European Union to request an extension.
Emerging from the Houses of Parliament afterwards, Wera Hobhouse said, “Thank you to the thousands of people who have marched today in London to make their voices heard. Brexit is not the will of the people. We have just defeated this government. Keep going; we will get there.”
This week promises to see more dramatic events unfold as the clock ticks down before the 31st October when the UK is set to leave the EU.