‘We just want to say goodbye’ - Pro-EU campaigner plans to mark Brexit with procession

Anti-Brexit supporters take part in the Unite for Europe march (Photo by Ray Tang/Anadolu Agency/Get

Anti-Brexit supporters take part in the Unite for Europe march (Photo by Ray Tang/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images) - Credit: Getty Images

The organiser of a pro-EU rally on January 31 says he does not care if the media want to compare it to Nigel Farage's Brexit celebration.

Peter French is the man behind 'À bientôt EU, See you soon', a procession from Downing Street to the European Commission in Central London taking part on Brexit Day - January 31.

French was previously the founder of Unite For Europe, a pro-Remain group which staged a tens-of-thousands-strong march through the capital in 2017 coinciding with events to mark 60 years since the EU's founding agreement, the Treaty of Rome, was signed.

That rally saw speakers such as Alastair Campbell, Tim Farron and David Lammy take to the stage in Parliament Square. But while French accepts next week's event "could be anything from a few hundred to several thousand" he just wants to bid a fond farewell to staff at the Commission's London headquarters, which will close its doors for the final time on Brexit Day.

Speaking to The New European, French he had "literally no idea" how many people would show up.

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"If it was a march on a Saturday that's a very different story because people would travel from all over to it, but because it's a Friday afternoon it's a couple of hours, two or three hours," he said.

"I have no idea about the numbers but certainly the response has been phenomenal in terms of people liking the idea, and encouraging the idea."

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He said he accepted the likelihood that photographers from pro-Brexit news outlets would be looking for images of small groups of pro-EU campaigners to contrast with those from the celebratory event Brexit Party leader Farage has been allowed to stage in Parliament Sqaure that same night (meaning the pro-EU procession could only get police permission to happen earlier).

"Whatever we do, whatever action's taken, that will be offset in the press negatively compared to what happens in the evening," he said.

"I honestly don't have a problem with that.

"If the movement as a whole had a problem with that it would be reflected in the messages that I've received. I've not received one negative message about this.

"The only concern I think two people raised is about what happens if there are a lot of Brexiteers around and it becomes nasty. Well, there will probably be Brexiteers around but the police are going to be with us and I think there'd be numbers enough to prevent anything like that happening."

Farage and the Brexit Party's chairman Richard Tice today wrote to supporters asking for donations - "our recommended minimum of £10 or more if you can" - to stage their event, adding that "the speakers and entertainment will be announced in due course".

In contrast, French's event will congregate at Richmond Terrace opposite Downing Street from 2.30pm, setting off at 3pm to St. John Smith Square. Instrumentalists are encouraged with Ode To Joy among the music.

"This is their last day," said French of the European Commission staff. "They're all very upset. It's just a gesture, really - even if it's just 10 people. And actually, in some ways you could look at it the other way - it's reassuring and respectful, rather than having any animosity.

"It's not a political statement we're making, we're actually being very polite and very respectful by saying thank you and goodbye and hopefully see you again."

But on the political front, French said moves were already afoot to launch the Rejoin movement after Brexit Day.

"It's already happening. There's a rejoin movement already happening, it's actually started.

"There are some people who are tired, and understandably - it's been three-and-a-half years of non-stop work and people are tired and, of course, the disappointment of the election was devastating. I know people who just thought 'I can't go on anymore'.

"But there's a conference on Saturday to discuss the way forward between groups and there will be strategies about how to keep this going."

The 'À bientôt EU, See you soon' procession meets at Richmond Terrace at 2.30pm on January 31. For more information click here.

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