LONDON – Britain is leaving the European Union on Friday night, but a persistent protester known as Mr. Stop Brexit is not giving up the fight.
Steve Bray, who received his nickname from the British press, has been a thorn in the side of hardcore Brexit supporters — and the bane of TV reporters - for more than two years. During that time, he used placards and a megaphone to disrupt live broadcast interviews outside the Houses of Parliament. Journalists found it all but impossible to question politicians without recording Bray chanting “Stop Brexit!” as well.
On the eve of Britain's delayed departure from the European Union, the 50-year-old said he would scale back his ubiquitous presence as a reminder of the anti-Brexit “remain” movement. Now that the immediate battle has been lost, he plans to cut his daily protests down to one day a week and adjust his target.
Instead of trying to reverse the results of the June 2016 referendum in which U.K. voters narrowly decided to leave the E.U., Bray says he will try to draw attention to what he thinks is a disastrous policy mistake by showing up outside Parliament every Wednesday when British Prime Minister Boris Johnson submits to questioning by lawmakers.
“We're going to hold this government to account,” he said Thursday. “So it's about accountability, showing their broken promises....Like I said, most deprived areas voted to leave. These people were given hope and something to believe in, but they were given lies.”
Wearing the blue and yellow of the EU flag, Bray added to the sometimes carnival-like atmosphere outside of Parliament, occasionally clashing with Brexit supporters exasperated by his persistence. He has been remarkably successful at injecting himself, and his point of view, into media interviews despite attempts to block him.
Duncan Hodgkins, 68, said Bray played a key role in mobilizing opposition to Brexit.
"I think he's been very effective in keeping the remain light shining over the last 2 1/2 years that he's been here,” said Hodgkins said.
Bray, a British army veteran who left Wales to protest full time after the U.K. formally started the departure process, has mixed emotions as Britain's membership in the soon-to-be 27-nation EU dwindles to its final hours. He thinks Britain will rejoin the bloc, eventually.
“Sadness, you know, grateful for the time we've had with the European Union,” he said of his feelings. “But our campaign has changed. It's not a question of if we rejoin the European Union, it's just a question of when. How many years will it be?”