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‘People’s Vote’ March on Brexit Draws Thousands to Streets of London

LONDON — Thousands of Britons took to the streets of Central London on Saturday for a “People’s Vote” march, demanding that the government call a new referendum on Britain’s exit from the European Union.

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The New York Times
, New York Times

LONDON — Thousands of Britons took to the streets of Central London on Saturday for a “People’s Vote” march, demanding that the government call a new referendum on Britain’s exit from the European Union.

By 3 p.m., organizers said the rally had drawn more than 600,000 for what the event’s website calls “The Independent March for the Future,” a cross-party, grass-roots campaign by groups such as Britain for Europe, Scientists for EU, Our Future Our Choice, and Wales For Europe & InFacts.

Mayor Sadiq Khan was among those set to address the march, which was to end in Parliament Square.

Organizers expected the protest to be the biggest of its kind, with about 150 buses ferrying thousands of demonstrators from across the country to London.

A petition by the groups has drawn more than 320,000 signatures, with a goal of 350,000 goal. It says:

“We have watched the chaos unfold in cabinet and the turmoil in negotiations with dismay and foreboding. None of us voted for a bad deal or no deal that would wreck our economy. Nor do we accept that either is inevitable. If the Brexit deal is rejected by Parliament, then we, the people of Britain, should have the democratic right to determine our own future. That is why we are demanding a People’s Vote on the final Brexit deal.”

Footage on the BBC showed throngs of people snaking through the streets.

Demonstrators carried signs with slogans such as: “Brexit: Ugly word, ugly idea.”

Andrew Adonis, a Labour member of the House of Lords, said Saturday that “voters will neither forgive nor forget” if lawmakers allowed “this miserable Brexit to proceed without people being given the final say.”

Britons voted to leave the trade bloc by a narrow margin in a 2016 referendum. Prime Minister Theresa May has ruled out another public vote on the subject.

Britain is scheduled to leave the bloc on March 29, but negotiations have been plagued by disagreements, particularly over the issue of the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, which will be the United Kingdom’s only land frontier with the European Union after the process known as Brexit.

There are growing fears of a “no deal” exit, which could create chaos at the borders and in the economy.

May said at a summit in Brussels this past week that she would consider a longer post-Brexit transition period — one that could keep Britain aligned to E.U. rules and obligations for more than two years after its departure. Pro-Brexit politicians in Britain saw it as an attempt to bind the country to the bloc indefinitely.

With talks stuck, enthusiasm that a deal would be sealed soon appears to be waning, and hope is in such short supply in Britain that some fear that things could turn “grisly.” Some Britons who fear the worst in March have taken to stockpiling supplies and are known as the country’s band of “Brexit preppers.”

Photos emerging from the talks in Brussels hinted at Britain’s increasing isolation in the talks. One image shared widely on social media showed the leaders of France, Germany and Luxembourg taking a break from negotiations while sitting at a long table where beer, wine and french fries were plentiful — but the British prime minister was noticeably absent.

Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany was quoted as telling reporters after the summit: “Where there is a will there should be a way. We agreed that when sufficient progress has been made we will meet again, but right now it isn’t clear when such a meeting can take place.”

With the weight of a no-deal exit apparently weighing on the minds of the bloc’s 27 other member states, Merkel, President Emmanuel Macron of France and Prime Minister Xavier Bettel of Luxembourg repaired to a brasserie at the Grand Palace in Brussels on Wednesday.

Merkel brushed aside a question about how the talks were going: “Please, it’s a wonderful evening.”

“Let’s not spoil it with that!” she said, according to CNN affiliate N1.

As for Bettel, he offered a sage-sounding but cryptic quote: “Believe me, even though we are politicians, we are also humans,” he said, according to CNN.

“Human relations are sometimes very important, so we were able to discuss the topics we have today and tomorrow and to do a debriefing on yesterday, and that was good,” he said.

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