When two fresh-faced teenage Brexiteers popped up among the motley crew of protesters marching from Sunderland to London with Nigel Farage last month, it wasn’t long before political tongues started wagging.
Images of the placard-waving pair were plastered across national newspapers and social media and featured on the BBC, ITV and Channel 4 news. They were caught on camera at several other ‘Leave Means Leave’ events, joining Farage on stage in London at one of them.
They were at the politician’s side again in Parliament Square last week, on the day the UK was meant to depart the EU, joining him in hearty renditions of Rule Britannia and I Vow To Thee My Country. Farage even referred to them as ‘an inspiration’ in a recent diary piece he wrote for The Spectator magazine entitled ‘Pints And Pretty Girls’.
But these political cameos have fuelled much speculation among Remain-sympathising cynics about the girls’ true identities. In the past fortnight, social media has been rife with allegations that they are paid actresses or even hired Russian models. Some have suggested they are relatives of Leave Means Leave officials, or ‘brand ambassadors’ drafted in to inject a bit of colour into a grey party.
In the past fortnight, social media has been rife with allegations that these fresh-faced teenage Brexiteers, seen marching with Nigel Farage, are paid actresses or even hired Russian models. They are in fact sisters Alice (left) and Beatrice Grant, aged 17 and 15 – privately educated granddaughters of the late industrialist and former Governor of the Bank of Scotland Sir Alistair Grant
The Grant sisters were caught on camera at several ‘Leave Means Leave’ events, joining Farage on stage in London at one of them. (Above, Alice with him at a rally at the Queen Elizabeth II conference centre last December)
Farage (with Beatrice) even referred to them as ‘an inspiration’ in a recent diary piece he wrote for The Spectator magazine entitled ‘Pints And Pretty Girls’
Now, however, the Mail can reveal the inconvenient truth. The two young women are in fact sisters Alice and Beatrice Grant, aged 17 and 15, privately educated granddaughters of the late industrialist and former Governor of the Bank of Scotland Sir Alistair Grant.
Far from being ‘paid support’ as their desperate critics suggest, they are both highly intelligent Brexiteers who, in recent weeks, have been juggling their studies at school in London with their devotion to the Brexit cause.
Giving their first ever interview to the Mail this week — and displaying an eloquence that belies their youth — the politically astute pair speak with bemusement about the wild accusations made against them, while making an impassioned plea for Theresa May’s Government to hurry up and deliver the ‘clean’ Brexit voters were promised after the 2016 referendum.
‘There is a huge disconnect between the political class and the real British people who have so much faith in our nation. We just want to be free from Brussels,’ says Alice, the elder of the two, with impressive gravitas.
Far from being ‘paid support’ as their desperate critics suggest, the Grants are both highly intelligent Brexiteers who, in recent weeks, have been juggling their studies at school in London with their devotion to the Brexit cause
Away from the barricades Alice and Beatrice enjoy hunting for vintage clothes in charity shops — which helps to explain their quirky, eye-catching style of dress — share a passion for the Beatles, love painting and dote on their cats, Peach and Pickle
The girls argue that what Britain needs is a swift No-Deal exit from the EU. In their eyes, Nigel Farage is a hero for standing up for Britain and fighting for British independence from the ‘corrupt EU’. And while they are still too young to vote, they have little time for those who doubt they are the genuine article.
‘People don’t seem to realise there are young people who want Brexit, too,’ says Beatrice, who will sit nine GCSEs after the Easter holidays and has been juggling her protest appearances with a strict revision timetable.
‘We’ve had Remainers following us around at protests and filming us, while accusing us of being models or actresses. It’s not very nice,’ she says. ‘But we don’t let it get to us.’
Alice, who is studying politics, English, Ancient Greek and French at A level and hopes to study law at university, sees the accusations levelled at them as ‘typical Remainer negativity’.
‘Brexiteers are generally so much more positive,’ she says. ‘We are optimistic about an independent future for our country. We believe in Britain, whereas Remainers go on about how, if we leave with no deal, it will be catastrophic for the economy. It’s shocking that they have such little faith in our ability to carry on after Brexit.’
Given their political poise, it is easy to forget how young the girls are. Away from the barricades they enjoy hunting for vintage clothes in charity shops — which helps to explain their quirky, eye-catching style of dress — share a passion for the Beatles, love painting and dote on their cats, Peach and Pickle.
‘People don’t seem to realise there are young people who want Brexit, too,’ says Beatrice, who will sit nine GCSEs after the Easter holidays and has been juggling her protest appearances with a strict revision timetable
Accusations of xenophobia are given short shrift by the girls, whose 46-year-old mother is from South America and came to the UK as a 17-year-old
Yet they have undoubtedly made an impact. This week, in his piece for The Spectator about the 200-mile protest march, Nigel Farage wrote: ‘A week into the event, as we walked from Mansfield, I was delighted to chat to the Grant sisters, Bea and Alice. They are first-time voters and committed Brexiteers. To the horror of many, they also happen to be bright, pretty girls. Yes, intelligent women do support Brexit.’
Of claims the girls were hired models or ‘ringers’, he added: ‘The truth is far more prosaic. They are just ordinary young women excited by the prospect of a free UK. They are an inspiration to me; it’s their future that I’m working for.’
Alice and Bea were thrilled to be mentioned in print by Farage and admit their support for Leave Means Leave has set them apart from many of their peers.
‘Most of my friends are Remainers,’ says Alice, ‘but when I ask them why, they can’t really give any good reasons. I believe it’s because they don’t know enough about the EU and its history.
The sisters attended their first Leave Means Leave rally in London in December, not long after Theresa May first announced she was postponing a final vote on her Brexit deal. Alice subsequently revoked her membership of the Conservative Party in disgust
‘I think people our age are afraid of judgment because being a Brexiteer is seen as being far-Right, which is untrue, and there are horrible words attached to us like “fascist” and “racist”. We are made out to be extremists and people are afraid of that label. They are scared to voice their opinion.’
This is clearly not the case with Alice and Bea, who set out their arguments calmly and clearly, citing books they have read and statistics they have noted.
Alice adds: ‘Many people don’t realise we are the fifth largest economy in the world or that despite the uncertainty of last year, London was still ranked number one as the best place for business in the world. Lots of countries would love to do free trade deals with us.’
Accusations of xenophobia are also given short shrift by the girls, whose 46-year-old mother is from South America and came to the UK as a 17-year-old.
‘Brexiteers are often portrayed as inward-looking but we want a global future for Britain,’ says Alice. ‘The EU’s preferential migration system is something we have a problem with because we don’t see why people from Europe should be given preferential treatment over people from India or New Zealand or the rest of the world.’
At home in Notting Hill, West London, the girls are backed by both their mother and their father, a 53-year-old former advertising executive and journalist. Their mother often accompanies them to protests.
‘They fully support what we are doing as long as we keep up with our schoolwork,’ says Bea.
By their own account, they were raised in a non-political household. Their father is the son of the late Sir Alistair Grant, who rose from being a management trainee at Unilever to become the driving force behind the Safeway supermarket chain, chairman of the brewer Scottish & Newcastle and Governor of the Bank of Scotland. He died in January 2001, just before Alice was born.
‘Sadly, we didn’t get to meet him,’ she says. ‘I think he would have been proud of us for standing up for what we believe in.’ The girls were barely into their teens when the EU referendum took place in June 2016. Alice was 14 at the time, Bea just 12. Their conversion to the Brexit cause came last year when Alice began studying A-level politics.
‘We started researching the EU and the question of leaving. It was clear to us that the will of the people wasn’t being respected at all. We felt this was an assault on the result of the 2016 referendum.’
The pair certainly seem to have done their research. Both are well-versed in Brexiteer literature, citing works such as The Great Deception, by Christopher Booker and Richard North, and Brussels Laid Bare, by Marta Andreasen, the EU’s former chief accountant, as well as pro-EU speeches.
‘Most of my friends are Remainers,’ says Alice, ‘but when I ask them why, they can’t really give any good reasons. I believe it’s because they don’t know enough about the EU and its history’
Their conversation is littered with mentions of the Maastricht Treaty, the Lisbon Treaty and the Treaty of Nice as evidence of an erosion of British sovereignty.
‘It became clear to us,’ continues Alice, ‘that the EU cannot be reformed from within. It’s a super-state project and we don’t want to be part of that. We saw how politicians had signed our sovereignty away. There has been a huge transfer of power from the British people to a bunch of bureaucrats in Brussels.
‘We’re not anti-Europe, we’re anti-EU. The EU is just a complex of buildings in Brussels where laws are made. It’s not the continent. We love Europe.’
They attended their first Leave Means Leave rally in London in December, not long after Theresa May first announced she was postponing a final vote on her Brexit deal. Alice subsequently revoked her membership of the Conservative Party in disgust.
‘We were horrified by what she had negotiated in Brussels,’ says Alice. ‘We went to the rally because we wanted to throw our weight behind a WTO Brexit.’
At the end of that event on December 15, the girls met Nigel Farage for the first time. ‘We went up to say hello,’ says Bea, ‘but we didn’t get to talk to him for long because there were so many people there.’
Alice adds: ‘It was just great to be with so many people who believe in Britain and want to be independent. In London, people are so isolated from the rest of the country.’
At another Leave Means Leave rally in January, Alice plucked up the courage to tell 55-year-old Farage how much she admired him. Farage, she says, was gracious and politely thanked her.
Alice and Bea were thrilled to be mentioned in print by Farage and admit their support for Leave Means Leave has set them apart from many of their peers
She doesn’t hold back in her praise for a man she says is ‘full of integrity’. ‘He really has given Brexiteers a voice,’ she adds.
In February, she phoned in to the politician’s LBC radio show and spoke live on air about her beliefs.
‘I’m 17 years old and I’m very passionate about Brexit,’ she told him, adding that she did not feel represented by any of the political parties in Parliament.
Last month, the girls’ mother accompanied them by train to Sunderland, where they set off on a 20-mile walk in the rain to Hartlepool on the first day of the Brexit protest march. At a pub en route they were photographed chatting to Farage.
The girls returned to London because of school but rejoined the march the next weekend as it moved through Nottinghamshire, where they were photographed again, striding alongside Farage.
‘We fought our way to the front to walk with him,’ says Bea. ‘We talked to him for longer that time.’
Alice adds: ‘I asked him if he thought Article 50 would be extended. He said yes. At that point I still believed we were leaving on March 29. It was a false hope.’
Last Thursday the girls marched from Fulham to Parliament Square with their mother ‘because we feel betrayed by our Parliament’. It was the only time they have skipped school to demonstrate — but they say even though they were marked down for an ‘unauthorised absence’, it was a sacrifice worth making.
It was there, they say, that they found themselves photographed and filmed by Remain-supporting protesters, who posted the footage online along with more accusations that they were being paid.
‘I have to hand it to the Leave Means Leave top brass, they have certainly hired themselves some smoking hot young things, especially these two,’ was one comment posted online. Another described them as ‘hired young hotties’.
‘Bea and I are made of stern stuff so it doesn’t bother us but it’s quite shocking because we’re still quite young,’ says Alice. ‘We shouldn’t have to put up with it, especially from adults.’
As for the current Brexit situation, Alice calls it ‘a shambles’.
‘We all assumed the law would be upheld and that after two years of negotiation we would leave the EU with or without a deal. No deal is better than a bad deal.’
For opponents of Brexit, they are clearly an enigma — bright young girls who know what they think and are not afraid to stand up for what they believe in. Feel free to disagree with their political views, if you will, but don’t dare accuse them of not being genuine.