What do you think? Leave a respectful comment.

Prolonged Brexit impasse causes rising angst in the UK

European leaders agreed to delay the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union for at least a few weeks, but there is still no deal for how the withdrawal will occur. As the impasse drags on, protesters take to the streets and it's clear that “Brexiters” and “Remainers” alike are growing increasingly impatient and uneasy about their country's fate. Malcolm Brabant reports from Yorkshire.

Read the Full Transcript

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Analysts in London say this may be the United Kingdom's most significant week since World War II, because it will decide the fate of Brexit.

    Just a few minutes ago, in a setback for the government, members of Parliament approved a kind of multiple-choice vote to decide their own version of the divorce from the European Union. They will hold that vote on Wednesday.

    And in another setback for Prime Minister Theresa May, she admitted today she still doesn't have enough support for her version of Brexit.

    The struggle to forge a consensus means that Britain is at risk of crashing out of the European Union without a deal to soften that separation.

    And, as special correspondent Malcolm Brabant reports from Yorkshire, at this critical moment, the kingdom is deeply divided.

  • Malcolm Brabant:

    This Brexiteers' march from Northern England to Parliament was supposed to end on Friday, when Britain was due to exit the European Union, but the international divorce they voted for has been delayed.

  • John Longworth:

    What do we want?

  • Protester:

    Brexit!

  • John Longworth:

    When do we want it?

  • Protester:

    Now!

    (APPLAUSE)

  • Malcolm Brabant:

    John Longworth is the chairman of Leave Means Leave.

  • John Longworth:

    The beginning of the Brexit betrayal has started. It's a complete stitch-up between the U.K. government and the European establishment.

  • Malcolm Brabant:

    As the marchers set off, the prevailing complaint was that most members of Parliament favor staying in the E.U. and were working to overturn the result of the 2016 referendum.

    Amy Brookes is a local councillor for Britain's opposition Labor Party.

  • Amy Brookes:

    I'm really, really disappointed, but I'm really worried, to be honest. I fear that this is the thing that will, like, break democracy in this country. All we have is the vote, and when Parliament don't enact that, what is left?

  • Malcolm Brabant:

    Remainers often depict Brexiteers as small-minded, bigoted nationalists who hanker after a glorious British past that no longer exists. School teacher Julie Colton defies the stereotype.

  • Julie Colton:

    We were told it was going to be our decision, and they have pulled up every tree they can to betray it, to stop us from leaving the European Union. So it is absolute treachery.

  • Malcolm Brabant:

    In the referendum, 52 percent of voters opted to leave the E.U., 48 percent to stay; 17.4 million people were on the winning side.

    And John Longworth had this warning:

  • John Longworth:

    It's a massive problem that there's a gulf between Parliament and the people. It will have incalculable effects for trust in the U.K. establishment and the democratic system if in fact we don't do the Brexit, a proper Brexit.

    People will be completely disenchanted, and it will manifest itself in ways that we can't predict over generations.

  • Protesters:

    Brexit now! Brexit now!

  • Deb Smith:

    Exit from Brexit.

  • Malcolm Brabant:

    Two hours into the hike, the marchers were challenged by a lone remain supporter, Deb Smith.

  • Deb Smith:

    Exit from Brexit.

  • Protesters:

    What do we want? Brexit. When do we want it? Now.

  • Deb Smith:

    Exit from Brexit. Good morning.

  • Man:

    How can you say you believe in democracy?

  • Deb Smith:

    I believe in democracy. This area is going to be poorer. Jobs are closing.

  • Man:

    You all don't listen. You don't.

  • Deb Smith:

    I talk to politicians.

  • Man:

    Oh, you talk to politicians.

  • Deb Smith:

    Absolutely.

  • Man:

    And you believe them, do you?

  • Deb Smith:

    This country has so many difficulties that we need to deal with, and Brexit is just getting in the way.

  • Man:

    How are you?

  • Protester:

    I'm doing very well. We're marching for you.

  • Man:

    Have a good day. Thank you.

  • Malcolm Brabant:

    One day later at Maidenhead station in the district represented by the prime minister, remain supporter Judith Curry headed to a pro-E.U. rally in London demanding a second referendum.

  • Judith Curry:

    I think we're heading for complete disaster. And I have children. I care for my country. I'm a patriot. I don't want to see my country go into chaos.

  • Malcolm Brabant:

    On London's underground, teacher Jessica Jenkins shared a commonly held view that older people who voted for Brexit denied the next generation their birthright of access to Europe.

  • Jessica Jenkins:

    I want my children to be able to travel wherever they want to without any hassle. I want them to be able to work wherever they want to, like I did. I teach languages. I teach French and German. I know the importance of Europe and good connections with Europe, good business connections. And I want them to have exactly the same opportunities that I had.

  • Malcolm Brabant:

    Historians and constitutional experts believe that this crisis is the biggest Britain has faced since the Second World War. Back then, the country was united against a common foe, but Brexit has had the effect of turning Britons on each other.

    The division in this country is really visceral. Civilized conversation has turned to hatred, and social cohesion is really at risk. And the only thing that seems to unite these people is their total disdain for the politicians who are supposed to be representing them.

  • Jeff:

    Liars. Absolute liars.

  • Malcolm Brabant:

    Jeff would only give his first name, because he feared remainers were being targeted by the right wing.

  • Jeff:

    In every industry, financial services, if you commit fraud, if you misrepresent, you go to prison. All I want is honesty.

  • Woman:

    We think that we have topped one million marchers.

    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

  • Malcolm Brabant:

    London, a multicultural international city, is at odds with large swathes of Britain. The capital voted to remain in Europe.

    High school student Leo Buckley:

  • Leo Buckley:

    Not only was there huge foreign interference from the likes of Russia, but in fact the vote leave campaign acted illegally. If this was a legally binding referendum or a general election, it would have been dismissed because of the amount of corruption that's gone on behind it.

  • Malcolm Brabant:

    More than 1,000 days after the referendum result, the uncertainty unsettled consultant Ade Akinrinsola.

  • Ade Akinrinsola:

    It's a big decision, and I do accept that it is something that it's been very difficult to get consensus on. But I think they should have been talking about compromise a lot sooner, to find a workable solution, and not leave it until the very end.

  • Malcolm Brabant:

    But the divide persists, even in London.

    Maintenance worker Sean Dineen:

  • Sean Dineen:

    Seventeen-point-four million people voted, and they won the vote. And, basically, if you change the vote, that's what it's going to be, fascist country.

  • Malcolm Brabant:

    And the tension driving that language reaches into families and friendships.

  • Jeff:

    My mom voted Brexit. We — we have had to say to my mom, I look at you now as a different person. It draws me nearly to tears.

  • Malcolm Brabant:

    Back in the north marches described the failure to deliver Brexit on time a national humiliation.

  • Belinda De Lucy:

    A great march for a great cause. Nothing can be better than marching for democracy.

  • Malcolm Brabant:

    At lunchtime, there was perhaps a glimpse of the cuisine Britons will face if the country crashes out of the E.U. without a deal and there are food shortages, as predicted, fried potatoes on insipid white bread, that northern delicacy, a chip butty.

  • Man:

    Better than french fries.

  • Man:

    Well, that's true. These are English fries.

  • Malcolm Brabant:

    In the current climate, it's difficult to tell if they were joking.

  • Julie Colton:

    It really concerns me, the division, because people are getting very nasty, very aggressive. It's just absolutely bewildering what's happening in the country at the moment.

  • Malcolm Brabant:

    The Church of England has appealed for unity in what poet William Blake called this green and pleasant land. But the chasm is so profound, that that may be impossible.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Malcolm Brabant in Yorkshire.

Listen to this Segment

The Latest