Farage's Harrogate visit: What happened?

Nigel Farage MEP being interviewed on Parliament Street on Saturday by Leeds University's Youtube team
Nigel Farage MEP being interviewed on Parliament Street on Saturday by Leeds University's Youtube team

Harrogate found itself in the national news at the weekend when Nigel Farage MPE's Brexit bandwagon rolled into town.

The former UKIP leader was interviewed by the BBC on the night-time news on Saturday standing outside The Ivy restaurant at Parliament Street in the build-up to his appearance at a 'Save Brexit' rally at Harrogate Convention Centre.

Nigel Farage MEP outside Harrogate Convention Centre.

Nigel Farage MEP outside Harrogate Convention Centre.


A group 60 of more anti-Brexit campaigners from local groups including Harrogate and Knaresborough Labout Party protested peacefully outside the venue early on Saturday afternoon as audience members arrived at the 2,000 seater venue for the event which was not sold out in a town which narrowly voted for Remain in the 2016 EU referendum.

The Harrogate Advertiser was told on Saturday that attendance inside the auditorium was 1,200 approximately but a spokesperson for the official Leave Means Leave campaign told us today that attendance was around 1,600 pre-sales and on the door.


Farage and fellow speaker Owen Paterson MP (Tory) had already strolled up the steps through the front door while the third platform speaker at the rally, Kate Hoey (Labour) slipped quietly through a side door.


Brandishing banners and EU flags, the protesters were mainly quiet, though they were not always appreciated by Brexit supporters who occasionally verbally abused them.
Inside Brexit supporters were very vocal in their support for Farage's case for a clean and speedy Brexit involving no Customs Unions, though the rally was interrupted briefly by an angry anti-Brexit heckler.


Earlier, Farage, the vice chairman of the Leave Means Leave, the pro-Brexit pressure group responsible for organising the rally in Harrogate, had tried to get into Bettys but was faced with a lengthy queue.


The entourage, which included the Leave Means Leave campaign's white battle bus parked on West Park, then moved slowly down Parliament Street pausing to chat to passers-by and shake the hand of the occasional supporter as the equally occasional anti-Brexit person looked on in a very civilised fashion.


As expected, Farage popped into Wetherspoons, part of the national bar chain founded by Brexit-supporting Tim Martin, to enjoy a pint of beer.
His team also handed out free tickets for the rally to anyone who wanted one.


Margaret Smith, chair of Harrogate and Knaresborough Labour Party said the protesters had decided to bring their protest to an end as the event started as they felt they had already made their point peacefully against a 'hard Brexit' or 'no deal Brexit'.


Many anti-Brexit supporters from Harrogate and North Yorkshire were elsewhere on Saturday, having travelled down to in London on Saturday on coaches hired by North Yorkshire for Europe to attend the massive People's Vote rally which attracted an estimated 600,000 people or more.

The Harrogate area as a whole voted to remain in the 2916 EU Referendum, though the margin was narrow - with 48,211 residents voting to remain - 51% - and 46,374 voting to leave - 49% - from a total of 94,653 votes cast.

In North Yorkshire as a county, the majority of voters voted to leave the EU - as did Yorkshire also.

But recent polls suggest anti-Brexit sentiment in Harrogate has hardened.
Last month's Best for Britain/ Focaldata survey based on YouGov polls suggests Harrogate and Knaresborough had shifted more strongly to Remain from 52.8% to 55.1%.

Not all the local protesters on Saturday came from the Labour Party. but Margaret Smith, chair of Harrogate and Knaresborough Labour Party said it had been important that the pro-Brexit rally had been made aware that not all of Harrogate was on their side in this most heated of divides.

She said: "Harrogate and Knaresborough’s Constituency Labour Party were pleased to organise the alternative view to the “Leave Means Leave” meeting at the Harrogate Convention Centre. We are pleased for the support we received not only from Labour Voters but also people present who normally vote for other parties.

"This indicates that there is cross-party opposition to a Hard Brexit. As one mum said “ It was nice to show that many in Harrogate do not support Farage and Brexit!”

"As a Labour Party event, we were looking to promote “Six of the Best – Labour’s six tests” and no “Hard Brexit”. It was also interesting to note that the age-demographic of our attendees was wide from school-children, students, working people and retirees in marked contrast to the “Leave Means Leave” age-demographic.

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