LONDON - Anti-Brexit protesters flooded into central London by the hundreds of thousands Saturday, demanding that Britain’s Conservative-led government hold a new referendum on whether Britain should leave the European Union.
The “People’s Vote March” snaked from Park Lane and other locations to converge on Parliament, where the fate of Brexit will be decided in the coming weeks.
Marchers carried European Union flags and signs praising the longstanding ties between Britain and continental Europe. The protest drew people from across Britain who are determined to force Prime Minister Theresa May’s government to alter its march toward Brexit.
?Calls for May to go
May also is coming under rising pressure from her own Conservative Party to either step down or set a date for her resignation as her political support continues to wilt. The coming week is seen as crucial as political rivals jockey for position to succeed her.
Conservative Party legislator George Freeman tweeted that a new leader is needed.
“I’m afraid it’s all over for the PM. She’s done her best. But across the country you can see the anger. Everyone feels betrayed. Government’s gridlocked. Trust in democracy collapsing. This can’t go on. We need a new PM who can reach out & build some sort of coalition for a Plan B,” he tweeted.
Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable, invited to help lead the march in favor of a second referendum, called the crowd gathered in central London impressive and unified.
“There is a huge turnout of people here from all walks of life, of all ages and from all over the country,” he tweeted. “We are a Remain country now with 60 percent wanting to stop the Brexit mess.”
?Crowd estimated at 1 million
Police did not provide a crowd estimate. Independent legislator Chuka Umunna and others supporting a second Brexit referendum estimated the crowd at 1 million.
More than 4 million people endorsed an electronic petition this week in favor of revoking Article 50, the act that formally triggered the Brexit process.
The march comes as May, who opposes a second referendum on Britain’s EU membership, is easing away from plans to hold a third vote on her troubled Brexit withdrawal plan, which has been strongly rejected twice by Parliament.
She wrote to lawmakers Friday night saying she would bring the European Union withdrawal back to Parliament if there seems to be enough backing for it to pass.
“If it appears that there is not sufficient support to bring the deal back next week, or the House rejects it again, we can ask for another extension before 12 April, but that will involve holding European Parliament elections,” she said.
May's changing stance reflects the plan's dismal chances in the House of Commons after two prior defeats.
She also says she would need the approval of House Speaker John Bercow to bring the plan back for a third time despite his objections. Bercow has said a third vote would violate parliamentary rules unless the plan is altered.
May said in her letter to lawmakers that if the deal is approved, Britain will leave the EU on May 22, a date agreed with EU officials.
Lawmakers have twice rejected the deal and haven't shown any clear swing toward endorsing it in recent days. Britain is scheduled to leave the European Union on April 12 if no deal is approved.
The anti-Brexit marchers on Saturday included 63-year-old Edmund Sides, who spent the last three weeks walking from Wales to London in order to take part.
Sides, a geologist, said he wanted to be able to speak to people along the way, encouraging families that have been split between Leave and Remain to mend their fences and talk.
“The whole country isn’t doing enough of that,” he said.
He is worried about the vicious tone that Brexit arguments have started to take and worries about national cohesion.
“People fear the atmosphere is very dangerous in this country,” Sides said.