CAMPAIGNERS from the New Forest were among up to 700,000 protestors estimated to have marched through London last week to demand a referendum on the final Brexit deal.
Six coaches left from Ringwood and Southampton last Saturday morning carrying more than 300 people to the event in which huge crowds walked from Park Lane to a mass rally in Parliament Square.
TV historian Dan Snow, who lives in Lepe, paid for one of the coaches organised by the Dorset for Europe group, having recently come out publicly in favour of a “People’s Vote”.
Campaigners came from Ringwood, Lymington, Fordingbridge, Bransgore, Ashurst and Thorney Hill. They caught the attention of the continental media too as they were joined at Fleet services by a Belgian TV crew from VRT News.
Jerry Fenner of Dorset for Europe said: “What was also remarkable was the number of first time protestors – I’d estimate about 20-25 people from my coach had never been on a match or protest of any kind before.”
Steve Rice, who travelled from Ashurst, told the A&T: “I think we were asked to vote in 2016 without knowing what we were voting for, with illusory promises and lies told by both sides, and with fraudulent funding and Russian interference probable.
“The likely ‘deal’ and its consequences are only now becoming clear. Many people I talk to regret the decision they made, and younger people, who will be most affected, were not able to vote in 2016.”
Estimates for the march varied between 570,000 and 700,000, making it the biggest of the 21st century behind the one million thought to have protested against the Iraq War in 2003.
The crowd was so big it could not fit into Parliament Square where there were speeches by London mayor Sadiq Khan, Dragons’ Den business leader Deborah Meaden, and TV cook Delia Smith.
Another marcher was Liberal Democrat Cllr David Harrison, from Totton, who said afterwards: “Anyone witnessing the size of the crowd protesting today could not fail to have been impressed.
“If nothing else, it was a reminder that we Liberal Democrats are not alone in demanding a final say, when it is clear what Brexit will actually mean.”
The involvement of local people against Brexit follows the arrival in Christchurch this month of Nigel Farage who called for a “proper Brexit” as he stopped off on a national tour.
Brexit was also on the minds of MPs from the New Forest, which in the 2016 referendum voted nearly 56% to 44% in favour of leaving the EU.
In the House of Commons, Julian Lewis, of New Forest East, attacked “shroud-waving” EU negotiators who claimed a hard border would be necessary between Ireland and Northern Ireland, and challenged the Prime Minister to ask them who would build it.
“The Irish certainly will not and the British certainly will not, so unless the EU army plans to march in and build it, it surely can never happen,” he said.
Theresa May responded: “I say to my right honourable friend that we are all working to ensure that there will be no hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland.”
Sir Desmond Swayne, of New Forest West, wanted Mrs May to agree that the ending of the so-called backstop, a safety net agreement if the UK and EU fail to reach a wider deal, must be at a time chosen by the British government.
She said the government wanted to ensure that any backstop was “temporary and does not become permanent”.