United for Europe: St Albans and Harpenden protestors join the People's Vote March
PUBLISHED: 13:49 26 June 2018 | UPDATED: 10:01 29 June 2018
More than 100 people from St Albans and Harpenden joined over 100,000 protestors in London for Saturday's March for Europe, demanding a final vote on the UK's exit from the European Union after negotiations take place. The Herts Ad's Spencer Caminsky was with them.
“David Davis is a silly sausage!” came the cry which erupted from St Albans City Station on Saturday morning, as impassioned residents bought their tickets to London for the largest pro-European march to date.
The local contingent was brought together by St Albans for Europe, a branch of European Movement UK which gives a voice to the 63 per cent of St Albans residents who voted to Remain in the European Union.
A second vote on Brexit was originally proposed by the Liberal Democrats in late 2017 to give the UK the option to either accept or deny the final deal put in place by Theresa May’s Government.
Marchers from the district represented a range of political parties, including Lib Dems, Labour and the Greens, as people with differing affiliations and backgrounds put their differences aside for a cause they all believed in.
They marched from Pall Mall all the way to Parliament Square, joined by other campaigners from across the country who had travelled to participate in the demonstration.
The event had something of a carnival atmosphere: organisers chanted “When the Saints go Marching In”, and a Boris Johnson lookalike handed out what he claimed were the long-lost “Brexit dividends” - hand-made £350 million notes supposedly from the ‘Bank of Brexitlies’.
“I promise NOT to pay the NHS the sum of £350 million,” the notes read, referencing the promise about increased NHS funding made by the Leave camp during the Referendum campaign.
Several local parents were keen to comment on the issues and their reasons for marching as well as a second vote on Brexit.
St Albans mother of three Rebecca Westlake said she feared leaving the EU without the right deal in place could threaten UK security.
“We need to be in the club,” she said, urging for Britain to keep close ties with the European Union. She said that with the uncertainty surrounding American and Russian foreign policy, the EU ensured British people were safer and more secure as part of a larger bloc.
Rebecca condemned the tactics used by Theresa May during the current Brexit negotiations, highlighting suggestions the Prime Minister used the Royal Wedding as a cover to appoint 10 new Tory peers to the House of Lords, which she said was “devious and underhand”.
She argued that these actions were proof the Prime Minister was not acting in the interest of the British people during negotiations, but in the interest of the Conservative party.
She said the protest march was necessary to express her discontent, and call for change.
Other residents highlighted their fears surrounding the implications of a hard Brexit, and Mrs May’s threat to European negotiators that “no deal is better than a bad deal”.
Annette, mother of a St Albans family who recently moved to the UK from Germany, said she worried about her families’ right to UK citizenship as any future policy remained uncertain during the negotiation process.
She said the right-wing national media presented immigrants such as herself in a negative light, and she and her family were protesting against the harsh treatment they felt they have received during the Referendum campaign and following the Leave vote.
Harpenden campaigner Carole Hedges agreed: “I went as a ‘dual national’ ...and was able to explain to lots of people how the Home Office is making our lives impossible, and what will happen if the ‘hard Brexit’ that Theresa May - and our own MPs - want.
“There is no procedure for registering EU citizens post the UK’s membership of the EU because we are still members. Everyone who has applied for settled status, leave to remain, has done so under EU arrangements. These will cease if the UK leaves without any deal.”
Speaking with organisers from St Albans afterwards, they said hoped the march would help encourage continued political activism and participation from all ages.
St Albans for Europe chair Fiona McAndrew said: “It was an amazing day out and the huge numbers show the strength of feeling. The People’s Vote campaign is taking off across the country on this vital issue for all our futures.”
Richard Scott, chair of Harpenden for Europe added: “Whether you were a Leaver or a Remainer two years ago, no one really thinks Brexit is going well. We didn’t know about the £40 billion divorce bill back then or that promises on extra money for the NHS would be broken. Above all, we didn’t know that political leaders in Westminster would make such a mess of it.
“In Harpenden and St Albans we will be out campaigning all summer to make sure the people get their democratic right to have their voice heard on Brexit. We’ll be gathering signatures for the People’s Vote petition https://www.peoples-vote.uk/petition, which will be presented to No 10 Downing Street the week before the Brexit deal returns to Parliament later this year.”