Thousands gather in London for National Rejoin March

Protesters, waving flags from across Europe, made their way to Parliament Square.

National Rejoin March

The sun was shining on the capital as tens of thousands of pro-EU supporters gathered in Central London on September 23, for the second National Rejoin March (NRM).

Protesters, waving, not just EU flags, but flags from across Europe, including Spain, Ireland, France, and Wales, congregated on Park Lane, where they made their way to Parliament Square.

Speakers from six countries took to the stage, in an event that was supported by 70 affiliated partner organisations. Orators included former Belgian prime minister Guy Verhofstadt, who said there is an absolute need for the UK to rejoin the EU and it is always welcome back.  Terry Reintke, MEP, said the growing citizens movement for rejoin is being followed very closely in Brussels, where Britain is ‘missed a lot.’

Gina Miller, who became the star of the Remain campaign for launching successful anti-Brexit legal challenges against Boris Johnson’s government, addressed the crowd. Lisa Burton from the campaign group Bremain in Spain, delivered a rousing speech, speaking of the 1.32 million Britons living in EU countries, and the freedoms they have lost because of Brexit.

Peter Corr, a lorry driver from Derby and the leader and co-founder of NRM, explained that he had decided to organise the march because it “felt like everyone had given up” on the cause.

“Brexit was a huge mistake, we’re all – especially working-class and poorer people – paying for it and we need to do something about it,” said Corr.

The number of young speakers was notable, who relived their own personal stories about how Brexit has negatively impacted them. Stella Mavropoulou from the Young European Movement spoke passionately about her experiences as a foreign student in the UK. 21-year-old Ceira Sergeant, from Walton in Liverpool, also spoke, saying how she “was only 14 when the referendum happened, so there was a huge amount of my peers who never got the chance to have their voices heard.”

More than seven years after the Brexit referendum, and momentum to rejoin the EU is growing, having soared to its highest level since 2016, with 60 percent of the country and 80 percent of under 25s wanting to rejoin. The YouGov’s latest Brexit tracker survey found that more respondents trust the European Commission over the UK government than vice-versa, and that Britons and Europeans think the UK’s return to the EU is becoming more likely.

A recent poll by the Mirror shows that thousands of readers demand a second Brexit referendum. 6,777 voted for another chance to return to the European Union, while just 1,130 said the whole thing was done and dusted. 

Political parties’ positions on Brexit

The National Rejoin March coincided with the start of the Liberal Democrat Conference in Bournemouth. Despite the numerous polls pointing to strong support to rejoin the EU and the fact that the Lib Dems have been defined by their ‘stop Brexit’ position for a number of years, ahead of the march, Lib Dem leader Ed Davey announced that re-joining the European Union is currently “off the table.”  Davey said that most people on the doorstep just “aren’t talking about Europe.” Instead, the party’s conference is to focus on issues like housing, the raw sewage crisis, and health.

NRM described Davey’s comments as “absolute nonsense.” “Voters are very much talking about Brexit or – more specifically – rejoining the EU. Thousands of us will be on the streets of London, for example, for the National Rejoin March.”

Meanwhile, Labour has restarted the Brexit conservation, declaring it wants to rewrite the EU-UK trade deal and find fresh areas of cooperation. Its leader, Keir Starmer, has been to EU offices in the Netherlands to discuss migration and to Paris to meet the French President, Emmanuel Macron. Starmer has said he will seek to improve the government’s Brexit deal, but has also insisted there is no case for rejoining the EU, its single market, or customs union.

The thousands of people who participated in this year’s National Rejoin March confirms there is an appetite for rejoining.

Summing up the day, Peter Benson, press officer at National Rejoin March, told LFF:

“We all enjoyed a phenomenally successful event. The sun was literally shining on Rejoiners.”

Gabrielle Pickard-Whitehead is a contributing editor to Left Foot Forward

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