3 million Britons sign petition to stop Brexit

Brexit protesters [Photo: Al Jazeera]

A petition calling for the British government to revoke Article 50, which governs Britain’s withdrawal from the EU, reached three million signatures on Friday, parliament’s official petitions committee said.

The official website crashed on Thursday morning as the petition gained the highest-ever volume of sign-ups, the committee.

Many celebrities and lawmakers tweeted support for the petition, one of the most popular ever submitted to parliament’s website.

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon wrote: “An issue as big and important as Brexit should not come down to petitions – that said, if you are frustrated that the (prime minister) is just not listening, you can sign here.”

Downing Street suggested that Prime Minister Theresa May is likely to ignore the petition, saying she “will not countenance revoking Article 50.”

Andrea Leadsom, May’s leader in parliament, told lawmakers on Thursday that “should the petition reach more than 17.4 million signatures, there would be a very clear case for taking action.”

Leadsom was referring to the 17.4 million votes, or 52 per cent, for Brexit in the 2016 referendum.

Colin Talbot, a professor of government at Manchester University, said the Twitter-led surge in support for the petition was “quite extraordinary.”

“It clearly shows the increasing power of social media… and of course it will be a massive morale boost to Remainers of all stripes,” Talbot wrote in a blog post.

“There is no corresponding mobilisation on the Leave side,” he added.

“MPs will notice,” Talbot said. “The petition allows them to see what the response is in their areas. They know that this level of activity about anything is significant.”

More than 17 million Britons voted in favour of leaving the EU in a 2016 referendum while 16 million voted to remain, with May serving notice of the UK’s intent to leave under Article 50 of the EU’s Lisbon Treaty the following year.

The “Revoke Article 50 and remain in the EU” petition on the parliament website had attracted signatures backed by support on social media, although the site appeared to be regularly crashing due to the large numbers trying to sign.

“The government repeatedly claims exiting the EU is ‘the will of the people’.

“We need to put a stop to this claim by proving the strength of public support now, for remaining in the EU,” the petition said.

Parliament must consider holding a debate on all petitions that gain more than 100,000 signatures.

Supporters wrote on Twitter that the petition showed the strength of feeling against May’s strategy while backers of Brexit said it needed to attract more signatures than the 17.4 million people, who voted to leave the EU three years ago before anyone should take any notice.

More than 1.8 million people signed a petition calling for U.S. President Donald Trump to be prevented from making a state visit to Britain, leading to a debate in parliament in 2017.

More than four million people signed another petition in 2016 which called for another EU referendum in the event that neither the remaining or leave camps achieved 60 per cent of the vote.

Mrs May has asked European Council President Donald Tusk to delay Brexit from March 29 until the end of June.

According to her, she is preparing for a third vote in the British parliament on the exit deal she arduously negotiated with the EU.

(dpa/NAN)

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