Met police fear violent clashes over march by far-right 'Brexit Betrayal' militants

Police hold back Tommy Robinson supporters and English Defence League (EDL) activists during a demonstration in Birmingham
Police hold back Tommy Robinson supporters and English Defence League (EDL) activists during a demonstration in Birmingham in April 2017 Credit: Joe Giddens/PA

Hundreds of police officers will line the streets of central London on Sunday to keep far right activists and anti-racist protestors apart, after Scotland Yard imposed strict conditions on their right to march through the city.

Metropolitan Police commanders fear violent clashes if supporters of Tommy Robinson and Ukip, who are gathering for a ‘Brexit Betrayal’ march, come into conflict with counter-protestors.

Anti-fascists groups, religious leaders and trade unions have urged thousands to gather to oppose the Brexit Betrayal march, which they say will be used as a cover for racist and Islamophobic thugs to intimidate ethnic minority Londoners.

Scotland Yard announced on Saturday it would keep the two rival sides apart by issuing two  separate routes for them to follow though the West End.

The conditions have been imposed under Section 12 and 14 of the Public Order Act, 1986.

The Brexit Betrayal demonstration has been scheduled ahead of the parliamentary vote on Tuesday, in which the House of Commons will decide whether or not to accept Theresa May's deal on leaving the EU.

Robinson’s supporters will be kept to a route running from Park Lane to Victoria Street, before assembling in Parliament Street.

Counter-protestors from Oppose Tommy Robinson in London and Unite Against Racism & Fascism will be kept to a route along Portland Place, Regent Street, Haymarket and into Whitehall.

The Met says it will adopt a “robust” policy to keep the two sides apart while still allowing them to exercise their right to free speech and assembly.

It says it will come down hard on any attempts to breach the conditions of the route and provoke violence between the two sides.

Groups opposing the far-right say the likes of Robinson, real name Stephen Christopher Yaxley-Lennon, have hijacked the issue of Brexit and called on people from both sides of the debate to oppose his divisive ideology.

They point out that Robinson's march will be the latest in a series of far-right protests which have featured Nazi salutes and insignia, and which have been followed by attacks on trade unionists, a Mosque and Gurdwara.

Professor Michael Rosen, the writer and former Children's Laureate, said: "Two generations ago, in France and Poland, my family was ripped apart by fascists and their collaborators, with lives ended in the orgy of hate and brutality that raged across Europe.

“When we say, things like 'Never again' we must make sure we mean it and do what has to be done to stop the forces who dehumanise, persecute and murder people for no reason other than their birth, their background or their religion.”

Robinson, a former member of the extremist British National Party, is a convicted fraudster and football hooligan who was also  jailed for 12 months for assaulting an off-duty police officer in 2005. Last month the leader of Ukip leader, Gerard Batten, appointed him as an official adviser. 

The Met's Deputy Assistant Commissioner Laurence Taylor, said: "The right to protest is a fundamental right in our democratic society, but this right must be balanced against the right of people to go about their day without fear of violence, disorder or disruption.

"Experience has shown us that when groups with conflicting views come together it can create tension and disorder, not just on the day itself but in the longer term.”

He warned: "We will adopt a robust arrest policy on anyone who attends and is intent on violence and disorder, or is in breach of these conditions."