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Brighton and Hove Liberal Democrats

Lib Dems march for Exit from Brexit

September 9, 2017 10:00 PM
By Carrie Hynds

Carrie Hynds at the 9 September marchToday I joined 3,000 Liberal Democrats at Hyde Park Corner. EU flags were waving, placards were being held aloft and there was an abundance of stickers.

Through the somewhat hit-and-miss medium of handheld loudspeaker, Catherine Bearder MEP addressed the crowd, followed by party leader Vince Cable. They wished us well on the upcoming march and said its timing was key, as Parliament will debate the repeal bill (formally known as the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill) on Monday. The Conservative government has included in the Bill provision to give itself powers over which pieces of EU law remain copied over into UK law, and which are amended or repealed, bypassing any further scrutiny by Parliament. These are known as Henry VIII powers: in short, a power grab.

Fired up by the need to defend parliamentary democracy, we started to march, joining the rest of the People's March for Europe at Curzon Gate. We stopped briefly as the march passed Downing Street to direct a few chants at the Prime Minister, then continued on. As we arrived in Parliament Square, the sky briefly clouded over and the statue of Churchill loomed large, causing me to wonder what he'd make of all of this.

Tom Brake, Lib Dem spokesperson for Europe, addresses the crowdThere were a wide range of speakers, but the two that stood out for me were Bhupinder Singh and Tom Brake MP.

Bhupinder Singh has been one of the key volunteers helping the Grenfell Tower survivors. He reminded us that most of the residents of Grenfell were immigrants, a large proportion were refugees, and all were poor, living in one of the wealthiest boroughs in Europe. Those who have died have not all been identified and those who escaped have not all been given the right levels of accommodation and support, particularly with regards to mental health treatment. He concluded: "the measure of any society is how it treats its poor".

Balloons spell out REMAINTom Brake MP, who is the Lib Dem spokesperson for Europe, divided his short speech into two parts: the lies behind the Leave campaign and the cynical attempts by the government to reduce scrutiny of its actions. He said that the Brexit bus had promised £350 a week for the NHS, but in reality the NHS will have higher costs because of Brexit, including having to pay for the visas of EU nurses. As if Brexit weren't bad enough, the government's repeal bill is also "trampling on Parliamentary sovereignty" and must be opposed.

The mood throughout the day varied between reflective, angry and energised. There were imaginative ways of expressing opinion, from a placard saying "I'm rather cross", to a crude cartoon of Donald Trump, to balloons proudly spelling out REMAIN. One point was consistent throughout: this bill is not being done in our name. When negotiations end, we need the option of an exit from Brexit.