Today more than 100,000 joined the people’s vote march to tell Westminster that we, the people, demand our democratic right to vote on the final Brexit deal.
Party tribalism was set aside as people across the political spectrum came together for the good of the country. The generational divide was bridged as war veterans, students, young families and grandparents walked together in a celebration of unity.
When I emerged from the London underground and turned the corner towards Pall Mall, my jaw dropped at the sight of the crowd, which looked as packed as the main stage at Glastonbury. Blue flags with gold stars fluttered past the sea of homemade placards. People sang, chanted and whistled in a demonstration of solidarity.
This carnival of unlikely alliances showed that Brexit need not be the toxic issue that it has become. It felt as if the national wound that had been ripped open by the 2016 referendum might finally be starting to heal.
Over the past two years, people have become increasingly disillusioned with Brexit. Recent polling has revealed that just one in 10 people think that it is going well. Decisions of this magnitude cannot be made by a handful of MPs in the corridors of Westminster, where deals are made behind closed doors and then broken within a few hours.
And with time running out, the cabinet still cannot agree amongst themselves what kind of deal they want, whilst the threat of no deal lingers around like a bad smell. Boris Johnson has warned that we’re heading for a “bog-roll Brexit”, which may be an appropriate cleaning supply given the mess the government are making in the negotiations.
A people’s vote is about reality versus mythology. Families woven into the fabric of Europe can now see the barriers that Brexit will put up between parents and children and husbands and wives. It has dawned on young people like me that we will be paying for Brexit our entire working lives, since it is estimated that the divorce bill alone won’t be paid off until at least 2064, and the “Brexit dividend” has proved to be non-existent.
Reality has kicked in, and what was once mocked for being “project fear” is now just plain fear. UK-based businesses are unable to prepare for the future under the storm cloud of uncertainty that Brexit has created. It looks increasingly likely that thousands of British jobs will be evacuated to mainland Europe. Meanwhile, local businesses fear being unable to compete with the corporate giants. There is no “jobs first Brexit”.
At today’s march, after two years of the establishment deciding what will happen to our livelihoods and our jobs, the British people took back control of the Brexit debate and made sure their voices were heard by Westminster.
This grassroots movement behind the People’s Vote campaign, which has crowdfunded more than £160,000, is pivoting Brexit towards a democratic vote on the final deal. It is clear that citizens from all walks of life and every corner of Britain are determined not to let a disastrous deal be pushed through parliament. A people’s vote is the only way forward.
Tessa Milligan is a campaigner with Our Future, Our Choice, a movement to demand a vote on the final Brexit deal