Pro-EU activists to stage 'stop Brexit' march during Tory conference
Rowena Mason and Jessica Elgot
Campaigners say aim is to make the Tories face the reality of Brexit, with thousands expected to turn out in Manchester
Pro-EU campaigners are planning to stage one of their biggest “stop Brexit” marches outside the Conservative party conference this autumn.
Campaigners said their aim was to make the party “face up to the reality of Brexit” when they march to the conference centre to make sure their voices are heard by delegates inside.
Thousands are expected to turn out for the rally, starting in Platt Fields in Manchester on the first day of the conference – the same day as the traditional anti-Tory and anti-austerity protests held outside the gathering, which begins on 1 October.
The pro-EU rally will involve a number of groups, which are said to be planning an “autumn of discontent” against Brexit. The People’s March for Europe is one of the campaigns orchestrating a protest in central London, marching from Hyde Park Corner to Parliament Square on 9 September.
The organisers are hoping to attract pro-EU Tories to the Manchester event. The lineup of speakers so far includes the the former Labour adviser Alastair Campbell, Prof AC Grayling and the former Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg.
Peter French of Stop Brexit, who is also organising a rally, said there were several pro-EU groups planning to march in the north of England for the first time and they were hoping to be joined by activists from Scotland and Northern Ireland.
“This is our chance to actually let the people in the north of England have their voices heard because they have been neglected in every other way and this is a chance to give them their voice as well,” he said.
“And this is a chance to hopefully start to turn this around. Our aim is to actually stop the Brexit process and I think things are beginning to turn in that direction. We have a long fight on our hands but I think it is something that is achievable.”
The march will be supported by the Liberal Democrats, breaking the traditional truce against disrupting other party conferences.
“Brexit is the battle of our lives and it is vital we make the Conservatives see the strength of feeling against their disastrous extreme Brexit, which threatens to crash the economy and damage the life chances of millions,” said Tom Brake, the Lib Dem MP for Carshalton and Wallington. “They are heading for the very most reckless of Brexits in the teeth of public opposition to leaving the single market.
“Liberal Democrats didn’t take the decision lightly to protest at another party’s conference but we can’t ignore the harm Theresa May’s Brexit will do to future generations. Liberal Democrats on the march will protest peacefully and in good spirit but ministers should be under no illusions that a lot of people are very, very angry at their disastrous handling of Brexit, which has made a difficult situation a million times worse.”
Smaller pro-EU protests are also planned outside the Labour conference in Brighton and the Lib Dem conference in Bournemouth.
• This article was amended on 7 August 2017 because Peter French is no longer part of Unite for Europe, as an earlier version said. French is part of Stop Brexit, and is organising a separate rally to the one arranged by the People’s March for Europe. ■