I was one of the million plus people marching on Saturday.
It was immense: from halfway down Park Lane it took us a couple of hours to even be able to start moving, and five and a half hours to reach Parliament Square, long after everything there had finished. We couldn’t tell exactly how immense, but this video gives an idea of the scale that you don’t get at ground level:
The march was nominally for a referendum as a solution to the ongoing Brexit crisis, but there were a lot of signs simply saying “Revoke”. I think that’s where a lot of us are now.
The petition to revoke Article 50 is already the biggest online petition ever, and now on its way towards six million signatures. You might think that petitions are useless, but it has more signatures than the sitting MP’s majority in many constituencies, and they’re starting to notice.
For a long time, there has been a sense that democracy ended in 2016, and that any attempt to overturn the Will of the People would lead to violent disorder, but as we get further from the referendum, and after two years of utterly incompetent and divisive government, it’s changing.
The pathetic spectacle of Farage’s March to Leave, of fewer than a hundred people trudging along the verge of an A road, has defanged the narrative of the angry Brexiter. Who, really, wants this interminable shit show any more?
Many people could have lived with a so-called soft Brexit that obeyed the wording of the referendum but retained customs and Single Market ties.
But Theresa May’s winner-takes all interpretation ignored them. There was no accommodation of the nearly half of the electorate who had voted the other way. And it hasn’t worked!
We now know that, as a matter of international law, the UK is not leaving the EU on Friday night. We still don’t know when or under what circumstances (or, because hope springs eternal, if) the UK will leave some time in the next few months, except that it will be 11 pm on 12 April or 22 May or possibly some other date.
As a matter of domestic law, it’s a bit more complicated: in a fit of boat-burning bravado, MPs chose to write the specific date and time of departure into legislation in Section 20 of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018
“exit day” means 29 March 2019 at 11.00 p.m.
Such a situation would place individuals in an intolerable position and would create enormous confusion, even though ultimate[ly] the legal position — that the EU rules would take priority — is clear.
To fix it requires a Statutory Instrument to change the definition of “exit day”. It’s currently scheduled for debate on Wednesday, so at least that should be sorted with a whole two days to spare.
The idea that we could just revoke and end this bad dream is no longer fringe, thanks to a divisive and incompetently executed process up to now. It may be too little, and it may be too late, but something has got to break over the next few weeks. It could be the UK; it could be hope; perhaps it could be Brexit that finally succumbs to its own impossibility.