Wednesday 29th March 2017 is a dark day for the millions of UK and EU citizens who want the UK to remain in the EU. Theresa May will trigger 'Article 50', formally beginning the 'Brexit' process.
Why then, were over 100,000 people marching in the streets of London on Saturday to protest? Isn't it too late? We protest, because protesting sends a clear message to the government. We protest, because millions of people cannot simply be silenced by demagoguery and populist cries. We protest because we, too, are the people, and we will keep speaking until politicians listen. We live in a democracy and it is our democratic right to speak up.
Image: Charlie Roberts
A lot can happen in 2 years, so this is far from over. Even the Daily Mail, a vocally anti-EU / pro-Brexit publication, published an article on 27th March that was less than complimentary about Brexit ("Britons' view on long-term economic impact of Brexit turns negative as government gets ready to trigger Article 50") - I won't link to the article as I don't want to help the Daily Mail get more advertising revenue; I support 'Stop Funding Hate'.
I personally protested (and will keep protesting) because what happens to the UK, the country that has been my home for nearly 27 years, matters to me; because it breaks my heart that the very poorest in our society, that have been let down by successive governments and most of all by Tory-imposed austerity, will suffer the most, having been fed lies by the 'leave' campaign. I protest because it is not ok to use human beings as bargaining chips, because it is not ok to blame a country's problems on immigration, because it is not ok to take a feeble mandate to leave the EU and turn it into an inflexible, rock-solid mandate to leave in the worst possible way, cutting all ties with our allies. Most of all, I protest because I believe in unity, co-operation and friendship, and because the EU and its previous incarnations have maintained peace in Europe for the longest period in history.
Me, my husband, my eldest daughter and my friend Anthony in Hyde Park, before the march started
Saturday was a joyful day of celebration: Of the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Rome, of tens of thousands of people from all over the UK and beyond coming together with one common goal, of all that is great about the EU.
Despite the narrow margin by which 'leave' won the referendum last year, I believe the tide is turning. I received far fewer negative (and far more positive) comments on Twitter than when I marched in September.
So what were the most ardent anti-EU keyboard warriors saying? Mostly insults and rallying populist cries without substance:
'You lost, get over it!' / 'The People Have Spoken' / Stop trying to subvert 'The Will of the People' / You are 'undemocratic'
Democracy doesn't begin and end with one referendum or one vote, otherwise we would not have general elections every five years - one vote would be enough to determine the future for generations to come. These phrases are the phrases used by fascists throughout history.
I find it puzzling that the very people who accuse the EU - and us 'remoaners' - of being undemocratic, those who ardently campaigned for the UK to 'regain' the sovereignty we never lost, wish to strip us of our democratic right to protest or even express opinions, and dub judges who upheld parliamentary sovereignty 'Enemies of The People'.
The EU is a 'dictatorship', ruled by Nazis / anti-Brexit campaigners are all Nazis
That's pretty rich when it comes from the very people who endlessly repeat fascist phrases.
I wish I could claim my response to this as my own; I have seen and heard it a few times and it's a beautiful, perfect response: Snowflakes are beautiful and strong structures, and when snowflakes get together, they cause avalanches, so watch out!
The people on the march were 'London lefties' / 'London softies' who are out of touch with the rest of the country
Setting aside the ridiculous stereotype about people living in London for a minute, let's address where people came from: They came from all over the UK; I travelled down from Doncaster with my husband and eldest daughter, my friend travelled from York, I met people from - and saw flags and banners from - the Midlands, the South West, the North East, the North West, Wales, the South Coast, Northern Ireland, Gibraltar, to name but a few. UK citizens living in other EU countries had travelled to be there for the march. There was also a big march in Edinburgh on the same day.
Edinburgh march, 25th March 2017. Image: Louise Brown
Edinburgh march, 25th March 2017. Image: Louise Brown
If you hate it so much here, go home
I am a dual citizen (Italian & German), was born in Italy and moved to Luxembourg at the age of 2, when my mum started working at the European Parliament. I went to the European School, where I grew up amongst all the nationalities of what is now the EU (I remember Greece and Spain joining and our school expanding). At 18, I came to the UK to go to University, where I fell in love...with the UK, with Yorkshire, and with my husband. We have raised two amazing daughters here. My life is in the UK. My home is in the UK. When people say "if you don't like it, go home", where do they mean?! Home is here, in Yorkshire. I don't know how to be an adult anywhere else. I protest not because I hate the UK, but because I love it.
We will keep marching. We will keep protesting.
So yes, 29th March 2017 is a dark day and I believe those that brought it about will not be remembered kindly by history, regardless what happens next. For as long as we are still in the EU, millions of us will continue to voice our opinion and to fight for the UK to remain in the EU. And if we do leave, we will campaign to re-join. Leavers campaigned for 40 years, so why should we shut up after just a few months?
Word cloud created by Helen de Cruz from 1193 responses to the question "What does the EU mean to you?" The most commonly used words are displayed the biggest.