Brexit petition to revoke Article 50 soars past three million signatures

Theresa May has ruled out cancelling the Brexit countdown despite a public petition backed by actor Hugh Grant soaring past three million signatures.

The Prime Minister said she did not believe in halting the deadline after the EU offered a delay plan, adding: ‘I do not believe that we should be revoking Article 50.’

The petition has also been backed by physicist Brian Cox, actress Jennifer Saunders, singer Annie Lennox, actors Eddie Marsan and Andy Serkis and author AC Grayling. 

It passed three million signatures shortly after noon on Friday. 

With the highest sign-up rate on record, more than two million people had pledged their support by the time Mrs May fielded questions in Brussels last night.

The public petition to cancel Brexit on the Parliament website has soared past three million signatures, with the highest sign-up rate on record

The public petition to cancel Brexit on the Parliament website has soared past three million signatures, with the highest sign-up rate on record

The public petition to cancel Brexit on the Parliament website has soared past three million signatures, with the highest sign-up rate on record

Jennifer Saunders

Jennifer Saunders

Andy Serkis

Andy Serkis

Absolutely Fabulous star Jennifer Saunders and Andy Serkis, who was behind Gollum in the Lord of the Rings films, have also backed the petition

Asked whether she thought the public’s view had shifted towards revoking Article 50, Mrs May said: ‘If you look back to what happened in the referendum, we saw the biggest democratic exercise in our history. 

‘And there was a clear result that we should leave the European Union. We said here’s the vote, what is your decision, and we will deliver on it. And I believe it’s our duty as a Government and as a Parliament to deliver on that vote.’

How this petition is NOT the biggest ever on Parliament website 

The latest petition is not the most popular one 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.

Another popular petition aimed to prevent US President Donald Trump from making a state visit, and attracted 1.8million signatures.

Grant said: ‘I’ve signed. And it looks like every sane person in the country is signing too. National emergency. Revoke Article 50 and remain in the EU.’ 

And Marsan tweeted: ‘In years to come, when future generations look back on Brexit and how this country was taken over by fanatical ideologues, to the left andto the right, they’ll ask ”where were you? What did you do?”.’

Professor Cox said: ‘I’ve signed this petition to revoke A50 and deal with the consequences afterwards – referendum, election, whatever. 

‘I have no idea whether these things do any good but after May’s astonishingly irresponsible speech this evening I’ll give anything a go.’

The petition on the Parliament website quickly gained support in the wake of the PM’s speech on Wednesday night and Revoke Article 50 started to trend on Twitter. 

Prime Minister Theresa May gives a statement about Brexit at a summit in Brussels yesterday

Prime Minister Theresa May gives a statement about Brexit at a summit in Brussels yesterday

Prime Minister Theresa May gives a statement about Brexit at a summit in Brussels yesterday

Support for the petition concentrated in London and constituencies around Cambridge, Brighton, Bristol, Oxford and Edinburgh - six cities that were in favour of Remain in 2016

Support for the petition concentrated in London and constituencies around Cambridge, Brighton, Bristol, Oxford and Edinburgh - six cities that were in favour of Remain in 2016

Support for the petition concentrated in London and constituencies around Cambridge, Brighton, Bristol, Oxford and Edinburgh – six cities that were in favour of Remain in 2016

This graph shows how signatures to the Article 50 petition have soared over the past week

This graph shows how signatures to the Article 50 petition have soared over the past week

This graph shows how signatures to the Article 50 petition have soared over the past week

Data from the petitions website shows support for the petition concentrated in London and constituencies around Cambridge, Brighton, Bristol, Oxford and Edinburgh.

The Brexit timetable: What happens next? 

After yesterday’s agreement to delay Brexit, Britain’s EU withdrawal is taking place to a new timetable. So what happens next?

Today: Theresa May cuts short her attendance at the European Council summit in Brussels to return to the UK and embark on a drive to win over at least 75 MPs to her Brexit plan.

Tomorrow: Large crowds of opponents of Brexit are expected to throng the streets of London for a Put It To The People march demanding a second referendum.

Next Monday: Parliament debates an amendable Government motion on the Brexit deal, which gives MPs a chance to put their favoured outcomes to a vote. Mrs May could table secondary legislation which must go through the Commons and Lords by Friday to remove the date of March 29 from Brexit legislation. Mrs May’s effective deputy David Lidington has promised to introduce a process for MPs to debate potential Brexit outcomes over the following two weeks.

Next Tuesday:  Possible date for the third ‘meaningful vote’ – known in Westminster as MV3 – on Mrs May’s Withdrawal Agreement. Downing Street says that no date has yet been fixed for the vote, which must come by the end of the week.

Next Wednesday: MPs led by Sir Oliver Letwin hope to seize control of parliamentary time to force votes on Brexit options.

Next Friday: No longer Brexit day. Leave-backing walkers who have taken part in the Brexit Betrayal march from Sunderland are due to arrive in London.

April 11: Final date for the UK to take steps to enable European Parliament elections to take place.

April 12: If Mrs May has failed to secure Commons support for her Withdrawal Agreement, this is the final day on which the UK can set out its next steps to the European Council, if it wishes to be granted a longer extension. If it does not do so, the UK would leave the EU without a deal.

May 22: If the Commons has approved Mrs May’s deal, the UK formally leaves the European Union on this date with a Withdrawal Agreement, entering a transition period during which it will continue to observe EU laws but have no representation in EU institutions.

May 23-26: European Parliament elections take place across the EU, with or without the UK.

July 1: The first session of the new European Parliament, whose first task is to confirm a new commission and president.

December 31, 2020: If the UK has left with a deal, this will be the end of the transition period. London and Brussels have both said they hope to have an agreement on future trade and security relations completed by this point.

In the 2016 referendum, these six cities were also in favour of Remain.

The petition reads: ‘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.’

Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom dismissed the petition, pointing out it was not on the same scale as the referendum. ‘Should it reach 17.4million, I am sure there will be a very clear case for taking action,’ she said. 

During her Downing Street statement, Mrs May controversially blamed MPs for failing to stick to the result of the 2016 vote and told the public: ‘I am on your side.’

The Petitions Committee said nearly 2,000 signatures were being completed every minute over yesterday lunchtime, crashing the website because of the unprecedented hit-rate.

It quickly passed the 100,000-signature threshold needed for it to be debated in Parliament.

Anyone can fill it in, prompting fears that bots or foreign agents seeking to interfere could have contributed to the total number of backers.

But people signing petitions on the Parliament website were 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 yesterday afternoon suggested more than 960,000 signatures were from people who said they were from the UK, nearly 9,000 from France, nearly 5,000 from Spain and nearly 4,000 from Germany, among others.

Margaret Anne Georgiadou, who started the petition, told the BBC: ‘I became like every other Remainer – very frustrated that we’ve been silenced and ignored for so long.

‘So I think now it’s almost like a dam bursting, because we’ve been held back in a sense – it’s almost like last chance saloon now.’

She said the petition ‘didn’t do very well for a week’, adding: ‘I nearly gave up but then I contacted a lot of people and it took off.’

Yesterday, EU leaders said Brexit could be delayed from March 29 to May 22 – but only on the condition that MPs vote for Mrs May’s deal next week.

If it is rejected in the third ‘meaningful vote’ then the UK would have until April 12 to tell the European Council a way forward.

An extension could continue for several more months if Britain agreed to vote in May’s European Parliament elections. 

In January MPs debated whether the UK should leave the EU without a deal after a petition calling for it got 371,673 signatures.

MPs have been sharing the petition to revoke Article 50 on social media, including Lib Dem Brexit spokesman Tom Brake.

 

Pete Wishart, who was among a number of SNP MPs who shared the petition, called on the public to sign and ‘end the madness’. 

PM ackowledges MP’s frustrations after Brexit speech backlash 

Theresa May has acknowledged MPs have a difficult and frustrating job dealing with Brexit after she provoked a furious backlash by blaming Parliament for delays in EU withdrawal.

The Prime Minister stopped short of apologising for the tone of her televised address from Downing Street on Wednesday but moved to try to stem criticism.

Referring to the TV speech, Mrs May said: ‘I expressed my frustrations and I know that MPs are frustrated too – they have difficult jobs to do.

‘I hope we can all agree that we are now at the moment of decision and I will make every effort to make sure we can leave with a deal and move our country forward.’

The PM added: ‘There are passionately held views on all sides.

‘I am very grateful to those MPs who have supported the deal, to those who have come around to support the deal and to all those MPs I have been meeting across the House.’

Mrs May’s attempt at a more conciliatory stance came after Parliamentarians from all sides lined up to condemn the PM’s Downing Street remarks, warning that they had put them in danger of physical attack by angry members of the public. 

Labour MP Neil Coyle also urged people to back it.

The SNP has tabled an amendment to revoke Article 50, which has been signed by 35 MPs.

A House of Commons spokesman said: ‘We know that the petitions website has been experiencing problems due to the number of people using the site.

‘This is a mixture of people signing petitions and refreshing the site to see changes to the number of signatures.

‘The majority of people are now able to use the website and we and the Government Digital Service are working to fix any outstanding problems as soon as possible.’ 

Pro-Brexit Tory MP Nadine Dorries suggested it was ‘likely’ that foreign governments or bots had intervened in the petition to revoke Article 50.

‘I don’t think you can trust the authenticity of any petition or social media response any longer as the issues regarding bots and rouge internet sabotage is now an everyday occurrence,’ she said.

But the Commons spokesman added that signature patterns are investigated to check for fraudulent activity and suspect signatures are removed, including those that are ‘clearly bots’.

He said: ‘Anyone who is a UK resident or a British citizen can sign a petition. This includes British citizens living overseas.’ 

In December last year the European Court of Justice ruled that the UK can unilaterally revoke Article 50 of the Treaty of the European Union and cancel the Brexit process. 

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