A FORMER florist who says Brexit forced her to close her shop will today speak in front of thousands in Westminster.

Rosa Ashby ended 22 years of trading in Witney when she shut Rosa Flowers in April, citing spiralling costs resulting from Brexit uncertainty as a factor.

She has now been asked to speak at this afternoon's Defend Our Democracy protest in Parliament Square, which will 'demand MPs reject Brexit'.

Mrs Ashby is part of People's Vote Witney, one of several organisations across the country calling for a public vote on the final deal, and has long spoken out against Britain's departure from the European Union.

Read also: Witney florist shuts store 'due to Brexit'

But the Northern Irish national revealed her experiences growing up during The Troubles means she also fears how Brexit could affect the island of Ireland.

She said: "My father's business was bombed and he had a heart attack and died two months later as a result.

"I don't think people in this country are fully aware of what people went through.

"I still regard Northern Ireland as my home and we need to ensure the Good Friday Agreement [a major part of the peace process in the country] is kept the way it is."

Read also: Florist has 'no clue' about post-Brexit future

Today's protest starts at 2pm and runs alongside other demonstrations by pro-European groups across the UK. It comes after the House of Lords agreed to progress a bill seeking to block a no-deal Brexit yesterday, after MPs voted it through earlier this week.

Rosa Flowers, based in Wesley Walk, imported all stock from the Netherlands, but Mrs Ashby said prices had risen by a fifth since the 2016 referendum.

Witney Gazette:

The store became a staple of Witney town centre, but Mrs Ashby and her husband and co-director, Jim, had faced an 'uphill struggle' for the last five years.

Mrs Ashby admitted other factors also forced the shop to shut, but said the increased cost of flowers was the 'last straw' for her company.

The couple have moved to Gloucestershire since Rosa Flowers closed, but have not failed to notice a host of national and independent businesses shutting in Witney.

Mrs Ashby added: "I don't like walking past Wesley Walk anymore. It's sad so many shops in Witney are closing, it's a sign of what's going to happen."