Whilst all media attention was on the ‘People’s vote’ march in London, I travelled back to my hometown Manchester to take part in the ‘March4Deomcracy’ organised by the Leavers of Manchester. The protest was a cross-party affair. Present were UKIPers, Brexit party members, SDP sympathisers, Labour leavers, Communists, Conservatives and all those with no party affiliation. All these people had one thing in common however; a yearning to have their voices heard and their democratic rights respected.
Despite the gruesome weather, spirits were sky high as the united proletarian began its mile long march from Manchester Cathedral to St Peter’s Square. Banners calling for British independence were waved with pride whilst chants of “bye, bye EU” echoed throughout the city. Aside from the seldom heckle from ‘Pret a Manger’ customers and university students, the peaceful protest received a warm reception from bystanders; including enthusiastic klaxons from passing cars.
The decision to end the march in St Peter’s Square was certainly germane to the march’s theme of democracy. Exactly 200 years ago in the very same spot, 18 working men and women lost their lives and hundreds more were injured when the King’s cavalry charged into a crowd of peaceful protesters. Their crime? Having the audacity to ask for a right to vote. The late Tony Benn once stated “There is no final victory on democracy. Its use it or lose it. It’s always a struggle for every generation.” His relevant words continue to resonate today as working men and women across the country witness their democratic mandate continually quashed by our establishment.
After the march, I managed to talk to both Brendan O’Neil and Paul Embery who were invited to speak. The editor of Spiked Online, who recently found himself under great scrutiny for suggesting the British people should be rioting over Brexit, defended his comments by stating: “what worries me now is the lack of subtlety on parliamentarians’ behalf. At first, their intentions were half hidden in political jargon. However, now they are happy to debate, live on air, the manners in which they intend to stop Brexit at all costs. Imagine what goes through the minds of ordinary Brits at home watching their representatives’ disregard for their views?”
Mr Embery, a trade unionist whom was sacked by the FBU (Fire Brigades Union) for speaking at a previous pro-Brexit rally, dismissed the myth that the EU was a bastion of worker’s rights. He told me: “Most of the rights we enjoy today came through our parliament following lengthy battles from trade unions. In fact, many rights in the UK such as annual maternity leave and pay are far greater than the EU minimum.” Indeed, it was the staunch Eurosceptic Labour MP Barbara Castle who introduced the Equal Pay Act well before we joined the EU. Paul then added that “in reality, collective bargaining had been deterred by the EU.” His comment is certainly accurate when we investigate the Viking-Laval case of 2007 which saw the European Court of Justice rule that Finnish workers striking against cheap foreign labour infringed upon a business’s freedom of establishment under the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. Business’ rights thus trump worker’s rights under EU rule.
Unfortunately, three years on from the referendum and the Brexit ennui looks set to continue with Donald Tusk agreeing to another extension until the 31st January 2020. A distraught David Lammy vented his unease at the French president’s ability to decide the length of the extension. What the MP for Tottenham failed to grasp was the fact that these powers had been handed to the EU through the Benn act; a bill which he voted through. Mr Lammy’s farcical comment kindly illustrates the Brexiteers’ reasoning behind labelling the bill “the Surrender Act”.
Right now, it feels as if the EU has become the Hotel California. You can check out anytime you like but you can never leave.
Image Credit: theneweuropean.co.uk