‘Cancel Brexit’ petition passes 2m signatures on Parliament site



A petition calling for Theresa May to cancel Brexit by revoking Article 50 has passed two million signatures.

Parliament’s petitions committee tweeted that the rate of signatures was “the highest the site has ever had to deal with”, after the website crashed.

EU leaders in Brussels have reached agreement on a plan to delay Brexit beyond 29 March.

Downing Street said the prime minister “has said many times she will not countenance revoking Article 50”.

The PM’s spokesman added: “The PM has long been clear that failing to deliver on the referendum result would be a failure of democracy and a failure she wouldn’t countenance.”

Revoke Article 50 has been trending on Twitter as people were urged to sign it. At one point, the petitions committee said there were nearly 2,000 signatures a minute.

It later tweeted that sudden spikes in numbers continued to cause intermittent problems with the site. It also said validation emails were taking longer than usual to get through.

The petition’s heat map shows the constituencies with the highest number of signatories, including seats in Bristol, Edinburgh, Manchester, Oxford, London, Cambridge and Brighton.

It is not the most popular ever on the Parliament website. A petition for a second EU referendum in June 2016 attracted more than four million signatures and was debated in the Commons – but thousands of signatures were removed after it was discovered to have been hijacked by automated bots.

People signing petitions on the Parliament website are asked to tick a box saying they are a British citizen or UK resident and to confirm their name, email address, and postcode to sign.

Data from the petitions website on Thursday evening suggested 1.3m signatures were from people who said they were from the UK, 10,000 from France, nearly 6,000 from Spain and more than 4,000 from Germany, among others.

A Commons spokesman said signature patterns are investigated to check for fraudulent activity and suspect signatures are removed, including those that are “clearly bots”.

He added: “Anyone who is a UK resident or a British citizen can sign a petition. This includes British citizens living overseas.”

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Will the petition change anything?

Anti-Brexit protestsImage copyrightEPA

By BBC political reporter Brian Wheeler

Petitions on the Parliament website rarely lead to a change in the law.

They are not even guaranteed to lead to a debate in Parliament – they only get considered for debate if they reach 100,000 signatures. The petitions committee rejects them if it believes the UK government can’t do anything about the issue.

But what petitions can do is put an issue on the political radar – and that is what appears to have happened with the petition to revoke Article 50.

It was previously something of a taboo subject at Westminster.

Even the most ardent anti-Brexiteers know it would be political suicide for any prime minister to overturn a referendum result without going back to the people.

But some Remainer MPs are now calling on social media for the government to do just that.

Presentational grey line

Earlier Commons leader Andrea Leadsom dismissed the petition as not being on the same scale as the pro-Brexit vote in the 2016 referendum.

“Should it reach 17.4 million respondents then I am sure there will be a very clear case for taking action,” she told MPs.

She added: “It’s absolutely right that people do have the opportunity to put their views and that can then spark yet another Brexit debate.”

In December, the European Court of Justice ruled that the UK can unilaterally revoke Article 50 of the Treaty of the European Union.

This means the UK can decide to stay in the EU without the consent of the 27 other member states.

Few MPs have mentioned this as a potential option so far.


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