Anti-Brexit protest intensifies as UK politics is heading for chaos

, by Juuso Järviniemi

Anti-Brexit protest intensifies as UK politics is heading for chaos
Photo by Juuso Järviniemi for The New Federalist (CC BY-SA 4.0)

This week has seen a rapidly evolving and confusing flurry of Brexit news. First, the much-anticipated parliamentary vote on Theresa May’s Brexit deal was postponed at the last minute as the Prime Minister understood that she was going to lose heavily. Then, Conservative MPs tabled a motion of no-confidence against Theresa May, triggering a vote on her leadership among the Conservative parliamentary group. Having won the vote by 200 votes to 117, Theresa May remains the party leader and Prime Minister.

The Brexit deal is coming back to the Parliament no later than 21 January. As EU leaders have announced that it’s too late to renegotiate the Brexit deal, it is still expected that the deal won’t pass through the UK Parliament. With the Parliament unable to come to any agreement on Brexit, campaigners are intensifying their calls to put the choice back to the people. Westminster politics is growing increasingly absurd, and so is British grassroots activism.

Bollocks to Brexit battle bus hits the road

In February already, pro-EU campaigners mobilised their battle bus mocking the famous Brexiteer “£350 million a week” campaign bus from 2016 by making it clear that Brexit is costing the UK £2,000 million a week according to the government’s own estimates at the time. In December, the message is more forthright: a bright yellow battle bus with “Bollocks to Brexit” [1] written on its side is visiting dozens of locations in around the UK, as well as Dublin and Brussels.

The newest anti-Brexit battle bus met Pimlico Plumbers’ “Bollocks to Brexit” car on Tuesday.

On 11 December, the bus was seen passing by the Houses of Parliament several times before it visited the headquarters of Pimlico Plumbers, the plumbing company that gained fame when it mounted a 100-foot Bollocks to Brexit sign on its roof earlier this year.

The pro-Brexit “Leave Means Leave” campaign bus also drove around Westminster throughout the day. Mocking the fact that the bus was empty, while the “Bollocks to Brexit” bus was carrying campaigners, pro-European protesters outside the Parliament chanted “empty bus, empty promises” at the sight of the bus.

Daily protest outside Parliament turns into circus

The daily “Stand of Defiance European Movement” (SODEM) protest outside the Parliament building gained traction from the momentous political events in the House, with several dozen people attending the vigil from morning through to the evening on Tuesday. Earlier in the autumn, the protest went viral as it waved anti-Brexit banners in the background of live TV interviews even after broadcasters had built tall interviewing towers to keep the demonstrations out of sight. With international media from across the world reporting from Westminster, the flag and banner stunts have continued this week.

France 24 journalist reporting from Westminster on Wednesday evening.

The anti-Brexit campaigners’ eye-catchers aren’t limited to the Bollocks to Brexit bus or the banners. Outside the Parliament this week, the grotesque “Brexit is a monstrosity” float attracted the attention of tourists passing by the Parliament, while a demonstrator dressed up as Santa Claus asked people passing by to pick their favourite benefit of Brexit from an empty, transparent plastic bag. One demonstrator’s costume stated that RoboCop is against Brexit, while another climbed on a fellow protester’s car for photographic effect.

A number of pro-Brexit protesters had shown up in yellow vests familiar from the Paris protests, carrying banners asking “who funds drunk Steve”, in reference to Steve Bray, the lead figure of the SODEM protest. (Pro-European grassroots activities are typically crowdfunded.)

On Twitter on Monday, a commentator predicted that at this pace, “by Friday the House of Commons will be full of goats and a man screaming ’beetroot’ with a sieve on his head and the Teletubbies writing ’stop Brexit’ over the walls with Tubbycustard, and Theresa May will announce ’I offer stability’.” On Wednesday outside the Parliament, the pro-EU and pro-Brexit protesters with their garments confronted each other behind an exasperated France 24 journalist who was trying to film a report from London. Another Remain protester chased the environment minister and well-known Brexit supporter Michael Gove with a toy unicorn. We will wait and see what happens at the Parliament on Friday.


[1“Bollocks” is a vulgar British slang word for testicles. The unofficial Latin translation of the phrase is “Testiculi ad Brexitam”.

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