Farage's Harrogate visit: What happened?

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

Monday, 22nd October 2018, 12:06 pm
Updated Tuesday, 23rd October 2018, 3:26 am
Nigel Farage MEP being interviewed on Parliament Street on Saturday by Leeds University's Youtube team

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.

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.

Nigel Farage MEP outside Harrogate Convention Centre.

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 occasionaly 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 end the protest before the event started having made their point against a 'hard Brexit' or 'no deal Brexit' peacefully.

Many anti-Brexit supporters from Harrogate and North Yorkshire were in London on Saturday for the People's Vote rally which attracted an estimated 600,000 people or more.

What was the Harrogate vote in the 2016 EU Referendum?

The margin in Harrogate was narrowly against Brexit 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 whole a majority of voters voted to leave the EU, as did Yorkshire as a whole.

How would Harrogate vote now?

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%.

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