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It’s 2016 and rival flotillas are facing off on the Thames in a battle for Europe

Reuters/Stefan Wermuth
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Published This article is more than 2 years old.

Nigel Farage, the head of Britain’s rightwing UK Independence Party, led a flotilla of fishing boats up the Thames today (June 15), in one of the weirder stunts in the run-up to Britain’s referendum on whether to remain in the European Union on June 23.

The flotilla, which featured herring and mackerel trawlers, was organized by Scottish skippers who set up a an anti-EU ”Fishing to Leave” campaign a few weeks ago. “For too long Britain has been made to beg for the scraps of our own fish from the EU table,” the group says, citing fishing quotas imposed by the EU.

Before embarking, Farage said the flotilla—the #FarageFlotilla, as Twitter jokesters dubbed it—would be “big, visual and dramatic. The demand will be clear: we want our waters back.”

In the event, near London’s iconic Tower Bridge the fishing boats were intercepted by dinghies flying yellow “In” flags, dashing up and down the river. Horns blared, shouting ensued, and rival craft sprayed each other with hoses. Crowds gathered on river banks and bridges in central London to watch the spectacle unfold.

The “remain” group was led by a party boat with loudspeakers chartered by Bob Geldof, the former Boomtown Rats singer and founder of Live Aid. His boat blasted songs like “If You Leave Me Now” by Chicago, and he occasionally took to a mic to yell across the water at Farage.

Back on land, George Osborne, the British chancellor, once again predicted economic pain if the UK voted to leave the EU. He warned today of spending cuts and higher taxes to fill a £30 billion ($42.6 billion) “black hole” that would result from dampened trade, investment, and tax receipts.

The Brexiteers’ boats received a mixed welcome from largely pro-EU London, with campaigners on shore unfurling banners supporting continued membership in the bloc:

Twitter, naturally, simply reveled in the comedic bounty.

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