Updated Oct 20th 2018, 7:05 PM
BRITISH PEOPLE WHO oppose Brexit packed the heart of London today for an anti-Brexit protest organisers said drew more than half a million people.
The police gave no figures for how many showed up for the massive march and rally outside parliament aimed at pressing the government into holding a second Brexit vote.
But the 570,000 turnout figure reported by campaigners would make the demonstration the largest since 750,000 showed up against the war in Iraq in 2003 according to police figures.
“This feels like a party,” said Liverpool university student Lucy Dogget as she squeezed past a volunteer dishing out bowls of beans on a leafy square facing Westminster Palace.
But it could be our last one before the lights go out.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan called it “an historic moment in our democracy” that united “every corner of our country and every section of our society”.
The marchers came in buses and trains from across Britain and even other parts of the EU.
They chanted and whistled while marching in support for causes ranging from women’s rights to Britain’s beloved but underfunded NHS healthcare system.
Some wore blue French berets decorated with the golden stars of the EU flag. Others stuck up signs lampooning Prime Minister Theresa May’s negotiating efforts.
Many of the posters featured variations on the famous “I have a cunning plan” line from the popular 1980s British comedy ‘Blackadder’.
Their point was that May seemed to have none at all just five months before Britain is to split from the EU with or without an agreement of how future trade between the two will function.
And all seemed united in a simple message: the Brexit its supporters promised ahead of the June 2016 referendum that set the divorce in motion looks nothing like the one being negotiated today.
“I think people were misled in various ways,” small business owner Peter Hancock said while tightening an EU flag around the neck of his huge bearded collie.
“We want to stay European,” added his wheelchair-bound wife Julie.
We can’t really see any benefits of leaving, can we, at all.
An online petition demanding a binding vote on any deal agreed before the March deadline had been signed almost 950,000 times by the time the march kicked off under sunny skies.
May has made it abundantly clear that she has no intention of allowing a Brexit do-over.
“They now want a second referendum to go back to the British people and say ‘Oh, we’re terribly sorry – we think you’ve got it wrong,’” she told parliament on Wednesday.
There’ll be no second referendum. The people voted and this government will deliver on it.
But with negotiations between London and Brussels deadlocked, it remains unclear what deal, if any, her government can deliver.
As Britain’s planned departure in March next year draws closer it faces the prospect of leaving without any agreement, or remaining in a transition phase for several years with few changes but notably losing its decision-making seat at the EU.
Neither choice is appealing. Recriminations over how Britain got here are leaving May looking increasingly isolated and weak.
And European leaders such as French President Emmanuel Macron are openly wondering if a second British vote might yet make the mess go away.
Polls show support for a second referendum evenly split – the same as with Brexit itself.
The 2016 Brexit poll was backed by 52% of voters on turnout of 72%.
But some think MPs may rally around another poll at the last moment to avert complete chaos once they see what Britain might be forced to sign up to – and they must approve.
The last big march on parliament demanding a second vote in June saw an estimated 100,000 gather on and around Parliament Square facing Westminster Palace.
Organisers expect this one will be bigger and involve supporters of all major parties from every corner of Britain – and beyond.
Fiona Godfrey represents a group of British immigrants in Luxembourg. She came to London because Brexit would put up big hurdles to her ability to go back home with her new German husband.
“We would have to meet minimum income rules and I am self-employed,” the 53-year-old said.
I’m losing my voting rights, my right to a livelihood, my freedom of movement – in Luxembourg, which you can cross in 15 minutes.
The speakers set to take the stage outside parliament where the march concludes include London Mayor Sadiq Khan.
A group of celebrities led by Gary Lineker – a retired football star familiar to just about every Briton – will also pipe in video messages of support.