British MPs advised to take taxis home amid fears of Brexit violence
British Members of Parliament have been advised to take taxis home, over fears that they could be attacked by members of the public over the handling of Brexit.
In an email obtained by CNN, Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons Lindsay Hoyle wrote to lawmakers explaining that the Serjeant at Arms — who is responsible for security — had organized for black cabs to collect MPs from within the grounds of parliament in Westminster, central London.
The email — first reported by PoliticsHome — was sent late afternoon on Wednesday, after Prime Minister Theresa May said she was seeking a three-month delay to Britain’s departure from the European Union.
“Personally, I have never felt this level of tension during my time in the House and I am aware that other colleagues feel the same,” Hoyle wrote. “Many colleagues have already been subject to widely publicized abuse and intimidation.”
The deputy speaker suggested that lawmakers “take simple steps to improve our personal safety by traveling home from the House by taxi or with colleagues in the coming days.”
Hoyle warned that “tensions and emotions are running at an all-time high” which could lead to members of the British public expressing their frustrations through violence.
He added that security measures had been adopted at the homes and constituencies of most MPs and that “regional police forces have been contacted to ensure that they are not only aware of [the] level of tension felt here at Westminster but in all our constituencies.”
Both pro- and anti-Brexit campaigners have gathered outside the UK Parliament for more than two years to chant slogans and wave flags, but the scene has recently turned uglier as the Brexit deadline looms at the end of March.
An increasingly vocal pro-Brexit group has joined the throng, harassing politicians and journalists while hurling insults. Lawmakers have been surrounded and jostled by protesters as they walk to Parliament and as they attempt to conduct media interviews with the media.
In 2016, days before the EU referendum, Labour MP and Remain campaigner Jo Cox was killed in a street attack in Leeds, northern England. Anna Souby, a former Conservative MP and now a member of the Independent Group, has been at the receiving end of abuse in January where she was called a “liar,” “traitor,” and a “Nazi.”
Anti-Brexit campaigner Steve Bray — who is a regular face outside Parliament — previously told CNN he had been frequently targeted by “far-right extremists.”
“We’ve been called Nazis, I’ve been jostled,” he said. “I can’t repeat the nasty things they say, but it’s been close to assault a few times.”
MPs to blame for Brexit delay, not me, says May
In a televised address to the nation on Wednesday night, the Prime Minister said that MPs were to blame for the delay to Brexit, not her.
“So far Parliament has done everything possible to avoid making a choice. All MPs have been willing to say is what they do not want,” May said, while also issuing a stark warning to politicians: that it was “high time” they made a decision on her deal.
MPs were furious after May tried to shift the blame onto them, with Labour lawmaker Wes Streeting suggesting the Prime Minister had endangered the lives of politicians.
“I’ve thought long and hard before saying this, but (May) knows that MPs across the House are subjected to death threats — some very credible,” he wrote on Twitter. “Her speech was incendiary and irresponsible. If any harm comes to any of us, she will have to accept her share of responsibility.”
The added tensions come as Britain is scheduled to leave the European Union in just eight days. In order to avoid crashing out of the bloc without a deal, which could have catastrophic economic consequences, May traveled to Brussels on Thursday for a two-day summit with European leaders to plead for an extension to Brexit until June 30.
While European Council President Donald Tusk said on Wednesday that he thought EU leaders would agree to an extension, he said there would be one provision: that UK lawmakers would have to agree to back May’s twice-defeated deal.
However, winning over MPs will be easier said than done, especially after John Bercow, the Speaker of the House of Commons, blocked the government from bringing back a deal unless it was radically different to the two May has previously presented to parliament.