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15 June 2016

The naval battle for Brexit: Remain and Leave campaign boats have been warring on the Thames

Bizarre scenes from Nigel Farage's river-based stunt.  

By Charlotte Ryan

Just when we thought the campaigning on the EU referendum couldn’t get any more ridiculous, that ship has now officially sailed. 

That’s right, Nigel Farage came sailing up the Thames this morning in a flotilla, while Bob Geldof blared muzak at him from a rival boat. 

The flotilla was organised by the Scottish-led Fishing for Leave campaign, and left from Ramsgate at 3am, and Southend at 6am, before heading to Tower Bridge.

It found an enthusiastic group of Leave supporters there to meet it, lined up along Tower Bridge waving flags and signs with slogans such as “Don’t swallow Dave’s pork pies.” In comparison, the Remain turnout was paltry, with just a few students in t-shirts representing the other side of the debate.

A lone man passed the group and couldn’t contain himself, shouting: “You’re wrong, Britain’s stronger together.” But his voice was drowned out by the dozens of Leave supporters chanting, “Out, out, out.” If we were judging this on the strength of turnout alone, Remain supporters would be worried. But considering it was a Farage-organised event involving angry people on boats, we’re not sure you can extrapolate any deeper meaning here.

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As the Bob Geldof boat passed, someone shouted: “That’s the rich people’s boat!” You’ve got to give Geldof credit for trying, but the juxtaposition of a non-dom millionaire and hard working fisherman probably didn’t do Remain’s case any favours. Still, Geldof didn’t let any of that phase him, shouting at Farage, “still here, mate”, and adding, “Britain makes more money from fishing than any other EU country”. This caused jeers from the crowd, some of whom said: “That’s right, you can’t have your own fish, take what you’re given and be happy.”

It wasn’t long before political division turned to dispute, with those on dry land from both the Remain and Leave camps getting into a heated discussion about the EU fisheries policy. One Leave supporter said: “It’s about taking back control. Britain is a free country which has let itself be controlled by the EU.” A Remain supporter retorted: “It’s ironic that Nigel Farage is supporting fishermen when he has only attended one fisheries meeting.”

A little after midday, the flotilla began to disperse, and shortly afterwards Farage came over Westminster Bridge in an open-top bus playing the Great Escape theme. With politics like this, you start to wonder whether we should forget about the EU and look into dismantling Britain.