Why is the M25 closed? Motorway protests explained

·4-min read

One of Britain’s busiest motorways, which orbits most of Greater London, is again being targeted by climate protesters in a demonstration that has already seen 25 activists arrested, parts of Europe’s longest ring road blocked and huge traffic queues building up.

The protests are being led by a group known as Insulate Britain, which is demanding that Boris Johnson’s government take action on home insulation to tackle its role in global heating and energy waste.

The group said in a statement that 89 of its members had taken part in Wednesday’s demonstration during the morning rush hour by blocking two sections of the road, the second time it has done so in three days.

“We demand credible action now,” it declared. “Proper jobs for hundreds of thousands of people to start the first real step - to insulate all the homes of this country - which, pound for pound, gives us the biggest reduction in carbon emissions.

“It is a total no-brainer and yet this government refuses to get on with the job. This is criminal negligence.”

The group has previously said it had delivered a list of demands to 10 Downing Street by hand on 21 August 2021 but, so far, the government has yet to respond.

Insulate Britain targeted Junction 23 for South Mimms in Hertfordshire and the main carriageway from Junction 8 at Reigate to Junction 9 at Leatherhead, both in Surrey, on Wednesday, its members again sitting down in a line across the road wearing high-visibility orange vests and brandishing banners.

Their signs read “sorry for the disruption” and “please turn off your engines” but were met with volleys of verbal abuse from stranded motorists, many of whom beeped their horns in exasperation.

Confrontations between the two sides were captured on videos posted to social media and police said the delays were further complicated by a crash involving four vehicles occurring on another stretch of the motorway, which drew air ambulance and firefighters to the scene.

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Edmund King, president of motor insurance firm AA, said that during the last Insulate Britain blockade, a thermal insulation engineer was actually among the massive number of people prevented from going to work after being stuck in the traffic built up by the group’s actions.

“Whilst most people understand the need to take action on climate change, these motorway blockade tactics are just backfiring as they are alienating the working public stuck in this chaos and subsequently pumping out more emissions,” he said on Wednesday.

“It is somewhat ironic that thermal insulation engineers trying to insulate Britain were stuck in the congestion caused by Insulate Britain. Essential deliveries, emergency services, people missing hospital and business appointments are all hit by these blockades. Hopefully the police will take immediate action to unblock the arteries of Britain.”

During Nick Ferrari’s phone-in show on LBC, at least one caller was so incensed by the activists that he suggested they should be charged with manslaughter for allegedly causing one woman to miss her appointment for an operation and that police should use water cannons to disperse them.

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That followed a heated exchange on Tuesday’s installment of ITV’s Good Morning Britain in which host Richard Madeley accused Insulate Britain activist Liam Norton of engaging in “fascism” and “blocking out reality”.

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Surrey Police was working to keep the public updated on the situation on Wednesday morning, explaining in a series of tweets: “We have been working with partner forces across the region including Metropolitan Police to deal with widespread protesters on the M25. All protesters have now been cleared from both Junction 8 and 10. A total of 25 arrests have been made.

“We are also dealing with a road traffic collision at Junction 9 of the M25 involving multiple vehicles. Police, fire service and ambulances are currently on the scene.”

In Insulate Britain’s previous demonstration on Monday, activists blocked five junctions of the M25, leading to tens of thousands of drivers being stuck in traffic and dozens of arrests made.

Additional reporting by agencies

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