Opponents of Brexit who turned out in their tens of thousands for one of the largest marches yet against Britain’s withdrawal from the EU have been told they need to “listen and understand” leave voters and bide their time for a referendum on any deal that may emerge.
The plea, met with polite applause from many in the crowd in Parliament Square, came from the Liberal Democrat MP Ed Davey. He said his emotions had shifted from “anger to distress, from fury to despair” and then to embarrassment at the Brexit negotiations.
Davey told a sea of demonstrators clad in the blue and yellow of the EU flag that the odds, and the parliamentary arithmetic, were even more stacked against them than before.
“We need to be a unifying force and that means that we need to listen to the other side,” he said. “We need to understand where they come from and listen in a way that heals the wounds and reunites our country.”
There were gutsier cheers for bawdy chants led by other speakers who echoed slogans such as “Bollocks to Brexit” and called for more protests as the legislation passes through parliament.
The Conservative peer Patience Wheatcroft appealed to demonstrators to keep fighting to stay in the EU, telling them: “You have history on your side.”
She said whatever is negotiated would be worse for Britain and that Brexit would mean fewer jobs and a less prosperous country.