Nigel Farage joined a dedicated band of Brexiters to begin a two-week march from Sunderland to London in protest against Parliament’s handling of Brexit.
The former Ukip leader and other Leave Means Leave campaign organisers gathered for the first leg of a 14-day journey that will finish on March 29 — the original date of Britain’s exit from the EU — outside the Palace of Westminster in London.
Mr Farage, dressed in a waxed jacket, yellow corduroy trousers and blue trainers, fought through a media scrum and chants from counter-protesters to head the 200-strong march on Saturday after the starting point was changed at the last minute for security reasons.
Accompanied by a portable sound system blaring out the national anthem, Edward Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance marches and Rule Britannia, Mr Farage said it was “a momentous day in British political history”.
“Pro-Brexit supporters are out in significant numbers as we begin the March to Leave to show the out-of-touch Westminster elite the depth of dissatisfaction at their appalling mishandling of the Brexit process,” the former Ukip leader said.
Mr Farage has said that he will only walk “some” of the 200-mile trek.
Wearing blue anoraks with “March to Leave” emblazoned on their backs, Brexiters chanted “What do we want? Brexit! When do we want it? Now!” Passing cars added to the atmosphere, beeping their horns in support as blue flares and whistles drowned out counter-protesters.
Outside the Hendon Grange Hotel, Barry Lockey, said he had “come to support the Brexit project and our right to leave.” He added that the decision to delay Article 50 was because “parliamentarians were scared and don’t have a clue”.
The venue for the start of the march was highly symbolic: it was Sunderland’s emphatic vote to leave the EU in the June 2016 referendum that shocked pundits who had predicted a win for Remain and galvanised Brexit supporters who had been steeling themselves for defeat.
The first day of the march will end 18 miles down the coast in Hartlepool, where residents also voted strongly in favour of Brexit.
Kate Hoey, a member of the opposition Labour party said she hoped the march would send the message that despite the party political differences of Brexit supporters the decision to leave should be honoured.
“We are united in our view that the decision of the British people to leave the EU must be respected. Not to do so would do untold damage to our democracy as well as corrode trust in politicians”.
Richard Tice, founder and vice-chair of Leave Means Leave, said MPs were right to have rejected Theresa May’s Brexit deal for a second time earlier this week, calling it “the worst deal in history”. He added: “It would have locked the UK into an EU customs union indefinitely, with no say over the rules and no ability to strike new trade deals.”
The march is headed down the centre of England, although there will be some gaps between one day’s finish and the following day’s start. After reaching Beaconsfield, the march will jump to Chiswick, in south-west London, for the final day’s walk to Parliament Square.