LONDON // Thousands took to the streets of London on Saturday waving European flags and chanting “We love EU” and “Baguettes, not regrets” to voice their opposition to Brexit.
But as they marched past Downing Street — home of the British prime minister — they shouted “Shame on you”, aimed at David Cameron, the outgoing PM who called the referendum and has paid for it with his job.
Among the imaginative slogans on placards were “Breverse”, “Winning By Lying = Cheating “ and – in a reference to the 1980s hit by pop singer Rick Astley – “Never Gonna Give EU up.”
More than 40,000 took part in the march, according to the organisers but the police did not give figures.
To the astonishment of the rest of Europe, Britain voted by 52 per cent to 48 per cent to lead the EU in a referendum on June 23. But the narrowness of the victory has triggered anger in Britain among those who wanted to remain in the EU and more than four million people have signed a petition calling for another referendum.
“There must be a second referendum. Everybody knows that if there is ... we’ll vote to stay,” said former television producer Nicholas Light, 82, on Saturday’s march.
The vote for Brexit prompted the resignation of Mr Cameron, who called the referendum in a bid to decide the long-contentious issue once and for all. It also unleashed a bitter leadership battle in the ruling Conservative party and chaos in the main opposition Labour party, whose leader Jeremy Corbyn is now facing all-out revolt.
The favourites to succeed Mr Cameron have meanwhile been pushing for a delay in starting the process that will eventually see Britain leave the 28-member EU.
Home secretary Theresa May, and her main rival, justice secretary and high-profile Leave campaigner Michael Gove have both said they do not expect Article 50 – the formal procedure for leaving the bloc – would be invoked this year.
But EU leaders have called for swift divorce, fearful of the effect of Britain’s uncertain future on economic growth and a potential domino effect in Eurosceptic member states.
The shock vote plunged financial markets into crisis and the pound fell to its lowest point against the dollar since 1985.
The vote over the EU exposed serious divisions in Britain across age, region and class. Older voters were mostly in the Leave camp while more than 70 per cent of those in the 18-24 age bracket voted to remain.
Germany’s vice chancellor Sigmar Gabriel suggested that Germany could offer citizenship to young Britons, saying they should not be punished by the majority that voted to leave the EU.
“It’s a good sign that young people in Britain are smarter than their strange political elite,” he said in a speech to the Social Democratic Party conference in Berlin, which is pushing for the right to hold dual citizenship. “Let us also offer it to young Britons who live in Germany, France or Italy, so they can stay EU citizens in this country.”
* Agence France Presse