Caroline Lucas tells anti-Brexit rally: 'we must be different to win'

Damien Gayle
Caroline Lucas speaking during the anti-Brexit demonstration in London. Photograph: AFP/Getty

Caroline Lucas, Vince Cable and David Lammy were among the speakers that argued the case for Britain to remain in the EU at a rally in London, after an estimated 100,000 people marched to Parliament Square calling for a “People’s Vote” on the final Brexit deal.

Lucas, the Green party’s only MP, said a new political consensus needed to be built around the campaign to remain in the European Union.

“We can’t afford to be defenders of the establishment, of some kind of vapid centrism that has failed in the past and will fail again,” she said.

“Our campaign must be radical, it must be young, it must be diverse; it must listen to people, empower them and create reasons for hope; it mustn’t simply make economic threats and call those who threatened to leave ‘stupid’. We must be different to win and we have to win.”

On freedom of movement, she said that it was a “precious gift to be able to travel, work, study and live and love in 27 countries”.

“We should be celebrating freedom of movement, not apologising for it,” she said.

Cable, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, accused the older generation of betraying Britain’s young people. “The damage has been done, and it’s been done to the prospects of the younger generation who have been shafted by the older Brexiteers, and it’s our job to fight for them,” he said.

“I’m here on behalf of my party, but I want to work with people across the board, from other parties who are here today, to make this a truly national effort.”

Lammy, Labour’s MP for Tottenham, pointed to the “hostile environment” immigration policies of the Conservative government as an example of the racist agenda that Brexit has fed.

“We remember the Windrush generation as we celebrate 70 years of multiculturalism in this country, people that came after the second world war and gave so much, but took so little,” he said.

“And we’ve noticed with this hostile environment the increasing tone and rhetoric about difference in this country, the rising tide of hate crime; and all of you say: ‘No, that is not the future that we want for this country.’”

The rally took place at the end of a march from Pall Mall behind a banner proclaiming: “We demand a vote on the final Brexit deal.” At its outset, the politicians and public figures who led it took to the stage, prompting crowds to break into a spontaneous chant of “Where’s Jeremy Corbyn?” Some Twitter users pointed out that the Labour leader was in Jordan, visiting Palestinian refugee camps.

Speaking from the stage, Kieran Donovan, a courier driver who took Jacob Rees-Mogg to task on an LBC phone-in on post-EU trade, launched a campaign for a petition on a second EU vote.

He said: “The time has come for people, not just politicians, to find their voice and make it heard. My business and my livelihood are at risk from decisions taken in Westminster.”

Neil Carmichael, the former Conservative MP for Stroud, stood with his daughter Rebecca in the crowd, both brandishing “Tories for Remain” placards. He warned that Brexit could finish his party.

“The Conservative party should note that the last two times it challenged foreign trade, over the Corn Laws and the imperial preference, it locked itself out of significant power for two decades each time. This time may be as risky.”