Protests outside British parliament as MPs vote to seek Brexit delay

James PHEBY
The Bank of England said shifting expectations about the potential nature and timing of Britain's exit from the EU was causing volatility in asset prices (AFP Photo/Tolga AKMEN)

London (AFP) - Rival Brexit factions once again gathered outside parliament on Thursday in a familiar ritual that has become a propaganda battleground in the struggle over Britain's European Union membership.

In scenes more reminiscent of a football match, some supporters exchanged chants while others shared a conciliatory chat, all under the floodlit glare of the temporary television studios set up on the green opposite parliament.

In the pro-Brexit camp, most of the anger was directed towards the MPs across the road as they voted to ask the EU for an extension to the departure deadline.

"That's a terrible thing," said David Duffett, 51, from Buckinghamshire, north of London.

"Treachery, absolute treachery. They were given a job to do by 17.4 million of us, and they failed to deliver.

"It's utter disdain for the populace," he added, warning "I suspect there would be some kind of civil uproar," if Brexit were ever to be overturned.

UK Independence Party supporter Keith Bloomfield, 64, also sensed mutiny in the air, saying: "I can see a civil war building in this country.

"I don't want to see the country split apart like that, it's up to them.

"They do not listen to the people, the true people are here."

In the heart of the opposition camp, defiant activist Madeleina Kay, 24, strummed her guitar and sang pro-EU songs, while Brexit supporters tried to drown her out with chants of "null point", in reference to the dreaded lowest mark in the Eurovision Song Contest.

"They are very loud, very vocal but I get my guitar out and sing," she later told AFP.

"For me it's always good natured, but I do have people call me names and chant."

She is a regular protester at College Green, and said that the pavement opposite the Westminster parliament had become part of the bigger story.

"The media's largely responsible because they always report here, they want parliament in the backdrop so people come here because they know that their protest will be amplified.

"But it's also the centre of our democracy."

- 'Fiasco' -

Fellow Remainer Jacqueline Brooker, a German teacher aged "over 50", was also a regular outside parliament, and other activist events.

"On the marches I've been on, you're always surrounded by lovely educated, good humoured people.

"I want a people's vote... given the fiasco that's happening in the House of Commons," she added, as an accordion player recited EU anthem "Ode to Joy" behind her.

With the most ardent supporters gathering at either end of the footpath, the centre-ground was the scene of lively debate between supporters of both sides.

"We're at each other's throats, as you can see," joked Brexit supporter John, 63, who was locked in deep discussion with Remain supporter Roy Motteram, 62.

"It varies a lot," Motteram said of the atmosphere.

"There are lot of gentlemen, like John here, who are quite happy to have a quiet, calm conversation, but there are lots of others that just shout in you face," he added.

"And the other way around too!", interrupted Brexit supporter John.

"If we're kept in, democracy in the UK is dead, the elite can overturn the democratic will of the people," he added, triggering another back-and-forth.

"We agree on some things, but just not the fundamental things," he concluded, echoing the mood across the country.