Michael Heseltine has condemned the rise of pro-Brexit populism as “unacceptable and repugnant” after Friday's Brexit Day protests.
Although the majority of demonstrators at the rally were peaceful, police arrested two people on suspicion of assault and another on suspicion of assaulting a police officer.
The former deputy prime minister, who campaigned to remain in the EU, told talkRADIO’s James Whale he feared pro-Brexit protesters would use “physical force and intimidation” as political tools.
“What appals me is that those who have strong feelings think that the legitimate weapon in their hand is physical force and intimidation,” Lord Heseltine said.
“We have all seen what happens when people say there will be civil unrest and start muscling up in a crowd, yesterday we saw a lot of posters torn down in parliament square and then somebody got roughed up.
“This is an escalation process, if you don’t stamp on it from the beginning and you go on talking about it like it is a legitimate democratic weapon you are encouraging people, so in the starkest and most strictest language: this is an abhorrent concept.”
The rally took place as MPs voted to reject Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement for a third time, paving the way for further indicative votes on Monday.
Although many demonstrators carried signs demanding that Parliament listen to the ‘will of the people’, Lord Heseltine said he believed Parliament was representative of the country as a whole.
He added: “You know, the fascinating thing about parliamentary democracy is it actually reflects the country at large.
“In every town, village, city in every family in every part of the country this division exists.
“Don’t be surprised if parliament reflects that, that’s what parliament does, it reflects public opinion.”
Lord Heseltine, who spoke at the People’s Vote rally last week, said he believed the first referendum focused too much on economics and not enough of the politics of leaving the EU.
“The referendum campaign was conducted after ten years of frozen living standards and people were fed up and wanted something better, so along came a lot of populists like Nigel Farage who did the traditional thing – blame the foreigners, kick out the immigrants - that was the subliminal message behind it all," he said.
“I would love to see the voice of the centre ground, that sanity in the middle, articulating our national self-interest, which is to be a leading player in Europe.”