A petition demanding a second referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union has reached three million signatures, signalling a major backlash against the shock Brexit vote.
By Sunday morning, 30,48,000 people had signed the petition on the official UK Parliament website. The figure takes it well over the 1,00,000-signature threshold required to trigger a debate in the House of Commons.
Ben Howlett, a Conservative MP, confirmed on Twitter that the petition will be discussed on Tuesday by the House of Commons petitions Select Committee. Experts, however, said the petition is unlikely to make any difference.
Thursday’s referendum saw a 72% turnout of 17.4 million people, with 52% voting to leave the EU against 48% voting to remain. The petition calls for the government to annul the vote if the remain or leave vote was less than 60% from a turnout of less than 75%.
It has emerged the petition was started by William Oliver Healey, an activist of a fringe rightwing group, English Democrats, and a Leave campaigner, who was concerned the Remain camp would win.
He has published a Facebook post in which he describes the petition as being “hijacked”, and as Leave won the election, he now describes it as the “will of the British people”.
Meanwhile, senior Labour MPs have called for action to prevent a Brexit from going ahead.
Tottenham MP David Lammy said: “Wake up. We do not have to do this. We can stop this madness and bring this nightmare to an end through a vote in parliament. Our sovereign parliament needs to now vote on whether we should exit the EU.
“The referendum was an advisory, non-binding referendum. The leave campaign’s platform has already unravelled and some people wish they hadn’t voted to leave. Parliament now needs to decide whether we should go forward with Brexit and there should be a vote in parliament next week.”
But despite the huge number of people signing it, experts said the petition is unlikely to amount to much. Speaking to the Press Association, elections expert John Curtice said: “It’s no good people signing the petition now, they should have done it before. Even then, these petitions don’t always mean a great deal.
“It has passed the 100,000 mark for it to be debated in Parliament. All that means is that some MPs will say, ‘It’s a terrible shame’, others will say, ‘Hallelujah’. Then that’s the end of it.”