Wes Streeting shares his views on Brexit with Steve Bray
“Stop Brexit Man” Steve Bray made headlines this week after a video of him talking to Wes Streeting angered Conservative MPs. The shadow health secretary told Mr Bray the public is “paying the price” for the EU referendum which led Conservative MPs to warn that Brexit would be “in jeopardy” under a Labour Government. Jacob Rees-Mogg told the Daily Express that a Labour Government would “informally” deny the UK the benefits of Brexit, while Lee Anderson, Deputy Chairman of the Tory Party, similarly accused Mr Streeting of being “in cahoots” with Mr Bray, adding that it is “clear that Labour still won’t accept Brexit”. But who is the top hat wearing campaigner who frequents the streets of Westminster?
For more than half a decade, the 53-year-old has protested outside Westminster — making him a well-known face to politicians and the police.
Before the anti-Brexit campaign, the Cardiff-born former electrical engineer had never protested in his life but growing up abroad gave him a different perspective on the EU.
His father was in the RAF and his formative years were spent living on military bases in Germany. He told the Guardian that this created a sense of “rootlessness”, and that he had the idea that he would one day want to retire in one of the EU’s countries.
He later followed in his father’s footsteps and joined the British Army before becoming a self-employed numismatist, collecting and dealing coins.
In the run-up to the referendum, Mr Bray began having more and more arguments online and in-person with his friends, many of whom he “binned off” as they turned out to be “racist and xenophobic”, he told the Irish Times in 2019.
Mr Bray, who was living in Port Talbot, South Wales, at the time, said he was also shocked by the fact that the majority of people there wanted to vote to leave the EU in the area.
The divorcee and father of a daughter also told the Guardian last year: “I know how much money the European Union had put into Port Talbot, one of the most deprived areas of the United Kingdom.
“What they promised, I knew there was no way they could deliver it. Port Talbot, a poor community, was being cheated out of a better life: being told they were going to get a better life when in fact they were going to be far worse off. I’m not an economist but I knew from the get-go it was all lies. Here we are, and it’s actually worse than I expected.”
He quickly realised that there was little he could do over the internet so then began campaigning in person.
Since 2017, Mr Bray has travelled around the streets near Parliament, shouting things like “stop Brexit” and “Revoke Article 50”, interrupting interviews, and singing and playing songs through a speaker.
Last summer, he blasted the Benny Hill theme tune at Westminster, as requested by actor Hugh Grant following the news that his speaker had been confiscated by police.
He managed to play the track just as Conservative MP Chris Philp was giving an interview with Sky News following his resignation in protest at Boris Johnson’s leadership.
Mr Bray’s speakers had initially been confiscated under a law that hoped to cut down on loud protests. The controversial Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act, introduced in 2022, banned acts which cause “serious annoyance” to the public.
Unbothered, Mr Bray promised to continue protesting “twice as loud”, telling former BBC journalist Victoria Derbyshire that the UK was “heading down a path of fascism”.
His fundraising campaign soared in the wake of the news that his equipment was seized, securing more than £200,000.
Mr Bray has interrupted live TV reports over the years, often seen wearing his recognisable top hat and placards inscribed with anti-Brexit or anti-Government signage.
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Just last month, he was thrown out of a BBC Radio 4 Today programme debate by security after he interrupted the live broadcast shouting, “Tories out!” He was not the only audience member who heckled the debate, with others calling the former Cabinet minister a “liar”.
After taking his seat, Mr Bray was given several warnings for shouting when the Tory MP for North East Somerset, who was on the panel with the likes of Alastair Campbell, spoke on the show marking three years since Britain’s departure from the EU.
On-air, Mr Rees-Mogg recognised Mr Bray and said: “Steve, it’s very nice of you to come and join us…For those of you listening at home, Steve Bray stands outside the House of Commons every day shouting. I’ve said to him many times, he should stand for election if he wants to get his arguments across. He’s trying to disrupt us this evening.”
After he was thrown out of the BBC studio near Oxford Circus, he posted on Twitter that his nose had been bruised in the kerfuffle and his ribs were “painful”.
He agreed that the BBC were “100 percent correct” to remove him from the premises, and said: “The violence and manner were totally out of order, uncalled for and illegal”.
Although Mr Bray ran as an MP before, he said he did not want to win as the “den of iniquity” is not his cup of tea, adding: “I’m happy to fight for people’s rights, but in a way I know best.”
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