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UK protesters take part in huge anti-Brexit, anti-austerity march

Protesters take part in an anti-Brexit demonstration in Manchester to coincide with the first day of the Conservative Party annual conference on October 1, 2017. (AFP photo)

Thousands of people have taken to the streets of Manchester, England, to demonstrate against Britain’s planned withdrawal from the European Union and the UK government’s austerity policies.

At least 20,000 activists gathered on Sunday around Manchester Central to show their opposition to Brexit and to the government of UK Prime Minister Theresa May and ahead of the Conservative Party’s annual conference.

Pro-European protesters waved banners demanding an "Exit from Brexit," while across town, anti-austerity protesters held up banners saying "Tories Out" and demanding an end to a cap on public sector pay,

Campaigning group ‘Stop Brexit’ unveiled a float depicting the prime minister, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, Brexit Minister David Davis and Environment Secretary Michael Gove, bearing the slogan “Brexit is a monstrosity”.

A banner reading ‘hang the Tories’ attached to two models swinging underneath caused fury among the public and politicians.

There was a heavy police presence and security operation costing a reported 2 million pounds ($2.6 million).

Protesters also chanted Jeremy Corbyn’s name, the leader of the opposition Labour Party, who wants to scrap university tuition fees.

May's authority was severely weakened by the snap election in June and her cabinet remains divided over Brexit, even as negotiations in Brussels move slowly forward.

In an interview with BBC Television on Sunday, May said the government will need some changes if it cannot reach a deal with the EU over Brexit.

May used her speech in Florence, Italy, earlier this month to offer a number of concessions to Brussels in a bid to unlock the Brexit talks.

In her speech, she stressed that the UK would leave the European Single Market, but noted that London still wanted economic relations with the bloc and it will not turn its back on Europe.

May also said that the British people never felt comfortable as a member of the EU, emphasizing that Britons want to make their own laws independently.

A week before May’s address in Florence, Johnson laid out his vision for Brexit in what analysts saw as a challenge to May’s authority.

Johnson stepped up the pressure again this weekend with an interview elaborating on his "red lines" for Brexit -- notably that the transition period must be kept short.

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