On Friday, Britain will finally leave the European Union, three and a half years on from the referendum, and after three missed exit deadlines, two general elections, two new prime ministers, and hundreds of hours of parliamentary time dedicated to finding a way through the Brexit deadlock.
BuzzFeed News asked some of the leading campaigners on both sides of the Brexit debate what they will be doing when the clock strikes 11pm on Friday, marking Britain’s exit from the EU.
Positive news The Remainers…
“I will spend the evening feeling sad — for the country, for its diminished future, and for the people who will be worst hit by Brexit. I will have dinner with a couple of close friends, and at 11pm I will light a candle and switch off the lights.”
Steve Bray became known as the “Stop Brexit Man” for his noisy protests outside Parliament. He contested the 2019 general election unsuccessfully for the Liberal Democrats in the Welsh constituency of Cynon Valley.
“I’ll be having dinner with the close friends I met on my Erasmus year in Belgium. It will be a rather sad moment as I contemplate how much smaller the world will be for my children than it was for me.”
Maugham is a QC and the founder and director of the Good Law Project, through which he brought a number of Brexit legal challenges against the government.
“I’ll probably be in London for media reasons, if it wasn’t for that I’d… do nothing at all… I wouldn’t be doing anything special to mark the occasion. It’s a crappy event in general, so not the kind of thing that I would in any way mark. It’s just the start of a very, very long fight.”
Oluwole is a cofounder of anti-Brexit youth advocacy group Our Future Our Choice.
“Just another Friday night. With my other half. Down the local pub feeling very sad at the terrible mistake the UK has made.”
Soubry is a former government minister and quit the Conservative Party over Brexit. She joined the Independent Group, which later became Change UK, and went on to lead the party until she lost her seat in December.
“I will be doing media events all evening. The end of Chapter One of the Epic that is Brexit.”
Gina Miller is a businessperson and activist who challenged the government in court over Brexit.
“I’m speaking at a rally outside the Scottish Parliament, and then there’s going to be a vigil later in the evening.
“Later I’m going round to a friend’s who’s having a ‘boo hoo we’re leaving Brexit party’ — but a ‘not really because Scots are going to come back party’.”
Cherry is an SNP MP and a QC who challenged the government in court over Brexit.
“It’s my brother-in-law’s 50th birthday party, so will be enjoying myself in Sunderland. Good reason to take my mind off it all. At least for a while.”
Wilson is the former Labour MP for Sedgefield who, together with colleague Peter Kyle, tried to get Parliament to pass the so-called Kyle-Wilson amendment to Brexit legislation, which would have paved the way for Theresa May’s deal to be put to the public in a second Brexit referendum.
“I’m meeting several pro-EU groups during the day and early evening to talk about the huge significance of the moment for our country — but that we must be optimistic about the future, work really hard to make life outside of the EU work for the whole UK, but always stand proud of the values we share with our European allies and the EU project and fight for that relationship to remain close and productive.
“Then I’m going to a friend’s home where there’ll be a lovely group of people ready to console each other over what we’re losing but also cheer ourselves up and talk about what the future holds if we can get things right — after all, we are the greatest country on earth and that’s worth fighting for! How’s that for a busy day?!”
Kyle is the Labour member of Parliament for Hove and the other half of the Kyle-Wilson partnership.
“In Brussels with my husband having a nice time and not paying any attention to it!”
Dance is an outgoing Labour MEP for London. All British MEPs will cease to be members of the European Parliament from Friday.
Wawrzyniak is a chef who will be cooking modern Polish food for Leavers and Remainers on Friday.
“[The] whole idea behind Last Supper is to bring community together. We have massive follow-up from English guests who are very upset with Brexit. They are our friends and we want gather all together and celebrate European style!
“Our guests this Friday are also leavers who are supporting our movement and are our guests since day one. Our neighbours are leavers and are our friends — we just can’t let be divided!
“[It will be] very happy we need to stay positive! Free vodka for all guests. Main subject is forget about Brexit, eat, drink well and be happy!”
Wawrzyniak is an award-winning chef, originally from Poland, who is hosting the “Last European Supper” at his restaurant, House of Feasts, in Peterborough.
Positive news And the Leavers…
“I have been invited to a number of Brexit celebratory parties around London, which I am looking forward to attending. Thereafter, I am not going to bed but rather I intend to stay up and watch the sun rise on a free country!”
Mark Francois is a Conservative MP and deputy chair of the Eurosceptic ERG.
“I’m in Auckland New Zealand and I’m hosting a Brexit Commonwealth drinks party with fine New Zealand wine and lamb on the menu. I’m 11 hours ahead so will be the first Brexiteer to celebrate 🎉”
Arron Banks is a businessperson and the cofounder of the Leave.EU campaign.
“I have been invited to a remain dinner with militant remainers – it’s a Brexit wake lol – old friends and I’m being seated separately from the rest of the guests. On the menu [are] 27 different foods from each EU country and French champagne and wine – however I am only allowed to feast on fish and chips 😂
“I shall be bringing sparkling English wine (Gusbourne) and a handful of newly minted Brexit day 50 pence pieces – I have also brought enough tissues to soak up their tears, it should be fun.
“I have also been told I will be the only one singing land of hope and glory at 11pm after which the rest of the guests shall sing Ode to Joy.”
Wigmore is the Comms Director of Leave.EU.
“I’m off to Parliament Square to celebrate with the crowds and then to our Brexit Party after party until the wee small hours.
“For me personally this has been 13 years of work. For Nigel [Farage], over 25! So it’s a pretty momentous day for me. My fellow south east MEP and bestie Belinda de Lucy and I have made a Brexit Party Playlist [on Spotify] for 31st January which will be played at our own event but is public so anybody also raising a glass or 12 at 11pm can also download and celebrate to.
“We took thousands of recommendations from twitter and have put together party bangers that we think also have a distinct message related to the cause!”
Phillips is an outgoing Brexit Party MEP for South East England.
“I’m going to the rally in Parliament square then will be partying for the rest of the night 🍾🥳”
Hewertson is a young Conservative activist who became well known after appearing on BBC’s Question Time.
“I’m going down to visit a few Wetherspoons pubs and then attending and speaking at the rally in Parliament Square.”
Martin is the owner of the JD Wetherspoon pub chain.
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“Private party with people who were part of Vote Leave.”
Stuart is a former Labour MP who chaired the Vote Leave campaign.
“Three events. All private. I am encouraging magnanimity from Brexit supporters.”
Baker is a Conservative MP and chair of the ERG.
“I just hope to walk down before 11 O’Clock to Parliament Square. I’ll just be there and talk to people and see what’s happening just coming up to 11 O’Clock.
“The great moment is 11 O’Clock when the law takes effect and I’d just like to be in Parliament Square for that.”
Field is a former Labour MP who later quit the party and became an independent. He was the member of Parliament for Birkenhead until the 2019 general election. Field was one of the few Labour MPs who supported Brexit from the outset.
“We’ll kick off in Brussels where MEPs will be departing the building for the final time, then set off to London.
“I’ve invited all the press officers I’ve worked with since 2004 for a drink — a small little island of sanity over my 16 or 17 years of involvement in UKIP and the Brexit Party. We’re having drinks early in the evening, then seeing whatever is happening in Parliament Square.
“After it’s to [the pub] for a do, and I believe there’s an afterparty to the afterparty — it kicks off after 2am so that will be jolly — it has the potential to get even messier. I am one of those bastards who never gets a hangover so I’ll be fine, but other people might be worse for wear.”
Towler is a former comms chief of both the Brexit Party and UKIP.
“I am going to be at a string of meetings, parties and events, finishing at Parliament Square where I have been asked to make a short speech. All very exciting!”
Mills is an economist and businessman and a former chair of Labour Leave.
Hannah Al-Othman is a political correspondent for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Hannah Al-Othman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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