“Keep calm but remain outraged”: London in the midst of Brexit

“Keep calm but remain outraged”, said one sign on the London protest march against Brexit. There was no shortage of witty and pungent sayings (read on for our top picks), but this one in particular epitomises Britons’ stance when faced with adversity.

The original version – “Keep calm and carry on” – has prompted thousands of variations (including the one below, a gift from Jules to help keep my composure while suffering on an indoor bicycle), but was never actually used. In 1939 close to 2.5 million posters with the original motto were made to boost the population’s morale ahead of the impeding Blitz, but only a handful were ever distributed. The saying quickly plunged into oblivion till the year 2000, when it was rediscovered in a second-hand bookshop.

Apparently pre-World War II Briton’s didn’t need any extra motivation to keep their composure, and neither do their great-grandchildren. The organisers of the Brexit protest politely postponed the march after public authorities warned they couldn’t guarantee the safety of the overwhelming number of attendees that vowed to participate.

Safety first, of course. After ensuring that everything was neat and proper, the protest went ahead. Luck would have it that both Jules and I were there to witness it: Jules was working for a few weeks in London, and I came from somewhere to spend the weekend with her.

After feeding the obese squirrels at St. James’ Park, we crossed paths with the protesters at Trafalgar’s Square on a bright sunny Saturday morning. The protest was unlike any other I have seen: calm, orderly, peaceful. Some would call it dispassionate, but for me it seemed like a particularly effective way of conveying a message.

And what a message it was! Instead of signs with dusty old clichés, marchers come up with a brilliant array of maxims. Choosing our top picks was no easy feat:

  • “Keep calm but remain outraged” –  A classic
  • “Briton, European, Human” – Three uncomplicated words written on a simple piece of cardboard, carried by a smiling girl with the EU flag painted across her face
  • “Never gonna give EU up, never gonna let EU down” – This was our favourite musically-inspired adage
  • “BREXshIT” – See what they did there?
  • “Brie-entry” – No shortage of witty word games
  • “Fromage, not Farage” – French culinary was a popular topic. We also saw a protester holding a croissant and a loaf of bread
  • “Farage licks goats”Not sure what that means exactly, but it’s definately not a pleasantry towards Mr. Farage
  • “Pulling out never works” – EU policy and birth control advice, all on the same sign
  • “If negotiating access to the single market without accepting freedom of movement was easy, it would be your mum” – self-explanatory, really


Perhaps nowhere in the world were people so shocked with the results of the Brexit referendum as in London: less than 40% of Londoners voted to leave the EU, compared with 52% of the country overall. For a city where more than 35% of its residents were born outside of the UK and that today stands as the financial capital of Europe, leaving the EU is indeed – to put it as a polite British euphemism – a tad disappointing.

I’ll leave you with some of our mementos from London, likely our last ones from an EUnited Kingdom (see what I did there?).


41 thoughts on ““Keep calm but remain outraged”: London in the midst of Brexit

  1. Pois… gostei de ver esta colorida ilustração da fleuma britânica, imaginativa e cheia de humor! Os nossos taxistas é que têm de ir até Londres ver como as pessoas se podem manifestar, sem deixarem de passar a mensagem e sem encalharem no Big Ben, versão inglesa da Rotunda do Relógio… 🙂

    Um belo apontamento de um acontecimento da actualidade… que nos remete para outro mais antigo, o Blitz! Muito interessante.

    E também gostei de ver as fotos dos monumentos e dos parques – com especial destaque para o esquilo gorducho… Parabéns! Keep calm and go on writing for us! 🙂


  2. LOL never heard about that birth control thing. By the way. I wonder what will happen to the Union without the Brits.. Something like a ‘EU Nighted Kingdom’? 🙂


      1. Haha. Yeah I think it’s Monty Python humour. It wouldn’t surprise me seeing as David Cameron had supposedly errr put his ‘private parts’ in the mouth of a pig’s head . . . something which is believable in context

        Liked by 2 people

  3. Oh heavens–yes! THAT is what a protest should be like. At least people are clear about what they want and can disagree civilly. I can’t quite get what the goal is of the post-election anti-Trump protests here. And when I think protest, what you described has always been what I’ve thought of as a real honest to goodness protest. My inner Pollyanna is cheering about the possibilities. If only…

    Lovely pics, too–makes me want to go there. London’s definitely on my bucket list.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Saw your last reply – that’s too bad -am not up on the changes after the Brexit day, but I was happy for the UK’s middle class. If you care to comment on what’s going on now (Dec. 7), go ahead… thanks for coming by my blog!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My pleasure, it’s a great blog! Whenever I’m in London I spend a lot of time with two groups that got a raw deal with Brexit: immigrants and those employed by multinational companies that have threatned to rellocate. Would be interesting to visit the rest of the UK to see how other people are dealing with Brexit, but London’s mood is definately grim!


  5. We are still reeling from the result all over the country. I am still baffled that so many of my fellow countrymen and women swallowed the blatantly misleading political nonsense and the ugly tabloid campaigns. The rise in hate crimes is shameful, the uncertain status of many people working here is bad for all of us, we will all be poorer and not just financially. Most damaging of all, I suspect the Brexit result gave the Trump campaign a substantial leg-up. I’m glad you saw the best of our nation!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Indeed I did (and do), Hilary! My relationship with your nation is almost as old as the 13th century England-Portugal alliance: I started by learning English (well, ‘American’) as a young kid, started to appreciate British humor (alright alright: ‘humour’) as a teenager, and nowadays I often go to London on work.


      1. You might enjoy ‘Glass’ by Jenifer Roberts. This non-fiction story of a Portuguese/British merchant enterprise between 1730s and the 1890s made me really interested in the relationship between Portugal and Britain.


  6. This is a great post and really captures the spirit of Britain with regard to the keep calm and carry on. I was one of those people who voted for Brexit. Where I live in Southampton (which is very proud of its multi-racial and diverse population) we have people from all over the globe here. Many would like to see trade throughout the world not just in the EU. Our County has really suffered under EU rules – factories closing, fishing rights slashed, small businesses struggling with taxes while huge corporations paid none. I have never seen so many homeless people from our own hometown, of all ages – young girls and elderly men sleeping rough on the streets. For our City it was to do with how Globalisation was being implemented leaving too big a divide between the rich and the poor.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. London is a fantastic place and am so glad you enjoyed it – but its almost like a country of its own – like just seeing New York, New York and not knowing what else there is in America. If there is ever another time perhaps you could fly to Edinburgh or Glasgow in Scotland, travel down to Liverpool and get the ferry to Ireland. From Ireland you could fly to Cardiff or Bournemouth and visit the South West before heading back from Heathrow. TrypAdvisor always gives plenty of advice.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. 10 days to two weeks but it depends how much time you have – if you have longer you could fly to France etc. But avoid British school holidays – Avoid Easter and 29th May to 2nd June or August or you’ll spend most of your time in traffic in 2017. Best is between May 5th – 28th and June 7th to the middle of July or September are good times.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. I loved this post. The British humor and the photos captured the moment so well. I lived in London back in the day when they were just going in to the EU. I was shocked at the result and would have voted to stay if I still lived there. We shall have to see how it all plays out. That could be said about a few things ( I am writing this just before the inauguration of the new US President). Thanks for the photos and the humor.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you for reading Anne, glad you enjoyed it! In any case, we still have Canada. A student of physics myself, I was hooked when I heard Justin Trudeau explaining quantum computing to a journalist 🙂 – Verne

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Yes! I saw that. I had no idea he had that knowledge. He does have a background as a teacher. I like him and I feel he is an intelligent man with some sense of social justice. And he has great hair. Sorry just had to add that.

        Liked by 2 people

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s