Brexit Day celebrations and commiserations as Sheffield and Doncaster mark historic occasion
Brexit Day was marked in contrasting styles across Sheffield and Doncaster, as people from both ends of the political spectrum gathered to mark the occasion.
Britain officially departed the European Union on Friday, January 31, at 11pm – some three-and-a-half years after the UK voted narrowly in favour of leaving.
The huge divide exposed by that vote and by the bitter political wranglings which followed was clear to see in South Yorkshire as the curtain fell on Britain’s 47 years in the union.
Brexit supporters donned Union Jack costumes and belted out the national anthem as pubs in Sheffield and Doncaster threw parties celebrating the historic day.
But the mood elsewhere was more sombre, with remain campaigners draping themselves in blue and yellow flags and observing a minute’s silence as the clock struck 11pm.
Around 200 people gathered for a pro-EU rally in Sheffield’s Peace Gardens and there was a smaller turnout for a similar #ThankEU party in Doncaster, where those assembled enjoyed European food, drink and music as they gave thanks to the remaining 27 EU countries and their citizens for what they described as ‘the many ways in which they have enriched our lives’.
Julian Rowden, deputy chairman of the campaign group Sheffield For Europe, who helped organise the Peace Gardens event, described how as well as observing a minute’s silence, crowds sang Ode to Joy and We’ll Meet Again during what he called a ‘good-natured’ and ‘deliberately positive’ gathering.
He claimed the organisation, which already has around 1,000 supporters, plans to step up rather than wind down its activities following Britain’s withdrawal from the EU.
Its next step, he explained, would be to help protect the rights of EU citizens living in the UK, who he fears could face discrimination when it comes to getting jobs or finding a place to rent.
He told how it will also attempt to ‘hold Boris Johnson’s government to account’ by ensuring that communities in South Yorkshire, which he said had received 1.7 billion Euros from the European Redevelopment Fund since 2003, do not lose out.
The Friendship pub in Stocksbridge and The Grove Inn, on York Road, in Doncaster, were among pubs in the region throwing Brexit parties on the night, with themed music, fancy dress and drinks offers contributing to a more celebratory mood.
Gary Turner, who runs The Grove Inn, said takings were up by around 20 per cent on the night and the atmosphere was ‘spot on’, with several punters dressing in blue, red and white in honour of the occasion.
Speaking on the morning after, he added: “We all knew nothing would change this morning and everyone would just get up and get on with things as normal, only we’d be out of the EU which is what we all wanted.
“We thought why not make a bit of a celebration of it, like we do for Christmas or Bonfire Night, because the date’s definitely going to go down in history.”
Mr Turner and Mr Rowden both added that their respective events had passed off peacefully.