LONDON, Jul 2 – Crowds are set to march through London on Saturday in protest against Britain’s vote to leave the EU, which has plunged the government into political turmoil and left the country deeply polarised. Demonstrators plan to gather on Park Lane around 11am (6pm Malaysian time) before making their way towards the Houses of Parliament, in the second show of public anger this week over the shock results of the referendum.
“We can prevent Brexit by refusing to accept the referendum as the final say and take our finger off the self-destruct button. Let’s not leave the next generation adrift… Let’s march, let’s protest, and let’s stop Brexit,” said organiser Keiran MacDermott on the march’s Facebook page.
Inside the halls of power, the favourites to succeed Prime Minister David Cameron in the ruling Conservative Party have been pushing for a delay in starting the process that will see Britain leave the 28-member European Union. Contender Michael Gove said Friday he had “no expectation” that Article 50 – the formal procedure for leaving the EU – would be invoked this year, echoing similar comments from his frontrunner rival Theresa May.
But EU leaders have called for a swift divorce, fearful of the impact of Britain’s uncertain future on economic growth and a potential domino effect in eurosceptic member states. French President Francois Hollande Friday, on the sidelines of Battle of the Somme centenary ceremonies said the decision has been taken, it cannot be delayed and it cannot be cancelled.
A speedy Brexit “would avert all the uncertainties and instability, especially in the economic and financial domains,” he said. “The faster it goes, the better it will be for them.” Last week’s shock vote plunged financial markets into crisis, wiping trillions off equities around the world and sending the pound to its lowest point in more than three decades against the dollar.
Bank of England chief Mark Carney hinted on Thursday he could unleash monetary stimulus this summer, saying that the economic outlook had “deteriorated” since Britain voted to leave the EU. In further signs of the fallout, the government warned it would likely abandon its promise to achieve a budget surplus by 2020, while no-frills airline EasyJet announced contingency plans to protect its European operations.
The vote to leave the EU was deeply split. Voters in Scotland, Northern Ireland and the capital London backed remaining, while the 52% that chose to leave were largely from less affluent areas in England and Wales. The narrow 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 a second referendum.
Thousands gathered in London’s Trafalgar Square on Tuesday, defying pouring rain to vent their anger at the result of the June 23 referendum as they marched towards Westminster. “Liars, liars!” booing crowds shouted outside parliament, urging lawmakers to “do your job, vote it down!”
A poll for BBC’s Newsnight programme found that 16% of voters think Britain will stay in the bloc, and 22% said they do not know if it will leave. Interior minister May, who is expected to take over from Cameron in September after signing up dozens of MPs to her campaign, has assured “Leave” supporters she will respect the result.
In the coming days, Conservative MPs will whittle down the candidates to two in a series of votes and the rivals will then tour the country to appeal to some 150,000 party members for their vote. Gove, who torpedoed fellow anti-EU campaigner Boris Johnson’s leadership hopes on Thursday, cast doubt on whether May could lead the country out of the EU after supporting a “Remain” vote.
“The best person to lead Britain out of the European Union is someone who argued to get Britain out of the European Union. I will end free movement (of EU nationals), introduce an Australian-style points-based system for immigration, and bring numbers down,” he said.