Former Remain and Leave groups have united in opposition to the government’s Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill.
Opponents of Priti Patel’s latest act of legislation include Richard Tice – former chairman of the Brexit Party and Leave Means Leave – and Tom Brufatto, former leader of the People’s Vote marches and co-director of March for Change.
After four years of disagreement over Brexit and a second referendum, the campaigners have buried the hatchet to unite against the government’s plans to limit political protests.
Campaigners say that despite their “different political views”, they “stand shoulder to shoulder to defend our right to express these views”.
Those behind the open letter, also signed by Best for Britain of Naomi Smith and the European Movement’s Anna Bird, were all able to conduct large scale demonstrations in London and across the UK peacefully and safely under existing legislation.
However, they claim under the new proposals, which change the boundaries defining the ‘controlled area’ of Parliament Square, neither side would have been able to hold the high-profile demonstrations and events in Parliament Square that shaped the Brexit debate.
Signatories of the letter agree that “the role of government and the police should be to facilitate the organisation of demonstrations such that people are able to participate safely and legally” while claiming the government’s proposals amount to “actions of authoritarians.”
They are now demanding the bill is scrapped “in its entirety” – a view echoed by Labour.
“This bill aims to sanitise our democracy and block the visible engagement of the public with politics,” said Smith, from Best for Britain.
“The government should be encouraging that engagement and making it safe for anyone to have their voice heard.
“Instead, their instinct is to shut down debate and criticism. That goes for both inside and outside parliament, where no proper scrutiny of this bill will take place.
“At some point, we have to say enough is enough. Our groups are now coming together because Britain’s global reputation is on the line. We can’t credibly criticise other regimes for shutting down pro-democracy demonstrations while removing those very same rights at home.”
“We are deeply concerned that the most authoritarian government in living memory is rushing through new laws which will restrict and prevent legitimate peaceful protest in Westminster,” added Richard Tice, the new leader of the Reform UK party.
“There is no proper scrutiny of this bill, nor appeal mechanisms. Rushed laws are usually bad laws.
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“The fact that our groups, from opposite sides of debates come together is a clear sign of our concern for democracy in the UK.”
It comes as MPs begin debating the bill in the House of Commons – with Labour already signalling it will oppose the legislation following the police’s heavy-handed handling of a vigil held in memory of Sarah Everard.