A campaigner who has spent more than two years yelling “Stop Brexit” outside the British Houses of Parliament has vowed never to give up, despite the UK’s looming exit from the European Union on Friday.
Steve Bray, who has been dubbed “Mr Stop Brexit” by the British media, has achieved global fame for his cry, which can be heard in the background of live broadcasts from Westminster.
Armed with a megaphone made out of a cone and dressed in a customised top hat emblazoned with the words “Stop Brexit”, Mr Bray has braved all weathers to protest every day that Parliament has sat since September 2017.
When Boris Johnson was elected with an 80-seat parliamentary majority in December last year and Brexit became a certainty, Mr Bray said he was “devastated” and announced that his daily protest would end. It was thought he would leave London and return home to south Wales.
But by January, the 50-year-old was back protesting outside Parliament with fellow Stand of Defiance European Movement (SODEM) protesters, placards and his trusty megaphone.
One thing has changed, Mr Bray told The National on a cold Wednesday morning, he has come back with a new rallying cry.
“The hat has changed. It says ‘Why Brexit’ so now it’s a question. Why? Why did we have to do this?”
Undeterred by the Brexit withdrawal agreement being passed through Parliament, Mr Bray has decided to come back to Westminster and protest outside as Mr Johnson takes questions from MPs in a weekly debate.
“We’ve decided we’re going to come out every Wednesday, which is Prime Minister’s Questions day,” Mr Bray said, adding that he was staying “around the corner” from Westminster.
“If and when we leave the European Union, we’re going to be here every Wednesday until we rejoin. That may be years, that may be months. Who knows?”
The former rare coin collector has overcome challenges to his protest movement. National broadcaster the BBC, which conducts interviews outside Parliament, built a five-metre high platform to avoid Mr Bray. But the campaigner got around the problem by attaching his placard onto a five-metre extended pole so he could wave it behind the presenters.
The peaceful protester has also become a target for the far-right.Last year, The National was interviewing Mr Bray on camera when a man with a union-jack hat on lunged towards him before being pulled away by bystanders and the police. At the time, Mr Bray said similar incidents had become a "daily" occurrence.
He was attacked in July by supporters of far-right leader Tommy Robinson, who had come to London to support the anti-Muslim activist who was jailed for breaching courtroom rules.
While earlier this month, Mr Bray was attacked by a group of far-right demonstrators during a protest to protect child refugees. He said he came away with cuts to
his leg but was back out protesting a few days later.
Mr Bray has decided to stay at home on January 31, when Brexit supporters will stage a party outside of Parliament to celebrate the UK leaving the EU.
“They can have their day,” he said. “They’ll realise afterwards what we’ve lost and they’re going to see how Brexit unfolds into the disaster it’s going to be.”
Asked whether he believed the UK would ever rejoin the EU, he said: “Absolutely. Once people realise what we’ve lost and how our economic and social structure falls apart, we will be rejoining the European Union. It’s not a question of if, it’s a question of when.”