Why Some Of Brexit's Remainers Won't Give Up The Fight

13 hours ago
Originally published on June 8, 2018 6:50 pm
Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

It's been nearly two years now since Britain voted to leave the European Union, and the U.K. government is working through the messy task of negotiating Brexit. Polls show public sentiment has not changed much since 2016. But as NPR's Debbie Elliott reports, activists who want Britain to remain in the EU say there is still time to reverse course, and they're calling for another vote.

GARETH STEEL: It's not a done deal.

DEBBIE ELLIOTT, BYLINE: Gareth Steel hands out anti-Brexit flyers across from Downing Street, the prime minister's official residence.

STEEL: Brexit is not a done deal.

ELLIOTT: Most people walk right past, but Steel is vigilant. He says time is on his side.

STEEL: The government has no plan at this stage. Almost out of time, and yet we still have no plan. So we're quietly confident that the chaos will speak for itself. There will be a massive, massive breakdown.

ELLIOTT: For nearly a year and a half, Steel has been working this sidewalk. He's part of a group that holds a biweekly vigil here.

(SOUNDBITE OF GUITAR MUSIC)

ELLIOTT: A headliner for the vigil this evening is Madeleina Kay, a singer-songwriter dressed in a Wonder Woman costume - a blue streak in the bangs of her blonde bob.

MADELEINA KAY: (Singing) There is no, there is no Brexit dividend.

ELLIOTT: Kay, also known as #EUsupergirl, is 24 and was named Young European of the Year by one foundation for her unorthodox and creative campaign to stop Brexit.

KAY: The purpose of what I do is to get attention.

ELLIOTT: She travels around the U.K. and elsewhere in Europe with her anti-Brexit message.

KAY: My generation - the young people - voted 75 percent to remain in the European Union. This is not a future that we voted for, and I will stand up for my generation because this is not the future that the young people wanted.

ELLIOTT: She says people deserve a chance to vote on the final Brexit deal, and that's the focus of a more traditional campaign launched today by the group Best for Britain, backed by billionaire George Soros. Its director, Eloise Todd, says the U.K. has influence within the EU and shouldn't give that up.

ELOISE TODD: Once we see the deal, let's compare it to what we have and, frankly, may the best deal win.

ELLIOTT: But many people have grown weary of the whole debate and are ready for Britain to leave. The group's strategy is to recruit lawmakers to support an amendment for a second referendum and to engage the public as well. Todd acknowledges it will be an uphill battle.

TODD: I think that a lot of the conversation about Brexit in normal life - in the kitchens and living rooms of the country - have stopped because people don't like to raise the issue with family members and friends that might disagree with them. And so I think there's a really big job of work to do there.

ELLIOTT: Indeed, polls show people's attitudes are generally fixed. Those who voted to leave the EU two years ago are still leavers, and remainers (ph) haven't changed their minds either. Adam McDonnell is a research manager at U.K. pollster YouGov.

ADAM MCDONNELL: It's a real divider in British politics and in society in general. And so I think people over time - they're not changing their views. Their views are actually getting stronger.

STEVE BRAY: (Yelling) Stop Brexit.

ELLIOTT: Steve Bray from South Wales is what some people call a remainiac (ph). He's been protesting outside Parliament since September. He wears a top hat adorned with the stars of the European Union and waits for lawmakers to pass by in their cars.

BRAY: So I know their Jaguars. I know their BMWs.

ELLIOTT: He keeps a keen eye for David Davis, the Brexit secretary.

So let's say David Davis were to drive by right now. What would you do?

BRAY: Well, I'd be at his car saying, are you having a bad day at the office? It is not a done deal. It is never too late to stop Brexit.

ELLIOTT: Remainers are planning a march for the people's vote on June 23, the second anniversary of the Brexit vote. But a spokesman for Prime Minister Theresa May says there isn't going to be a second referendum. Debbie Elliott, NPR News, London.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE DECEMBERISTS SONG, "RISE TO ME") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.