LONDON — Can Brexit be stopped? A force of exasperated Brits are trying.
A petition calling for Prime Minister Theresa May to revoke Article 50 and remain in the European Union surpassed 4,151,000 signatures on Saturday, becoming the most popular petition ever hosted on the British Parliament website.
The previous record was held by a 2016 petition calling for a second referendum on Brexit. That one garnered 4,150,262 total signatures. A petition to prevent President Trump from making a state visit to Britain received nearly 1.9 million signatures in 2017.
Britain’s government responds to all petitions that gain more than 10,000 signatures and considers for debate all petitions that receive more than 100,000 signatures.
The “Stop Brexit” petition is also the fastest growing on record. Launched on February 20, it has taken off in recent days. On Thursday morning, the petition had racked up more than 800,000 signatures. By Thursday afternoon, nearly 2,000 signatures being added every minute, according to a House of Commons spokesperson. By Friday, the signatures had risen to 3 million.
Because of the sheer volume of traffic to the site and people fighting to add their names, the site went down at least twice — drawing comparisons online to the “failing” British government.
In a speech at Downing Street this past week, May portrayed herself as on the side of the people in wanting to make Brexit happen. Those signing the petition contest that claim.
“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. A People’s Vote may not happen — so vote now,” the petition reads.
#RevokeArticle50 petition has now passed 2.5 million signatures in a couple of days. Does Theresa May ever pause to consider that she is risking jobs, the economy, national security, and our global influence for something that the public does not even want?” lawmaker David Lammy tweeted Friday.
While some have expressed astonishment at the climbing number, others have been more skeptical, suspecting that bots and people using false details to claim British citizenship or residency could be involved. That’s what happened with the 2016 second referendum petition, and thousands of signatures were eventually removed.
The surge of signatures comes just days before Brexit was supposed to happen. March 29 was the original departure date. But E.U. leaders granted Britain a reprieve this week, extending the deadline to at least April 12. If Parliament approved May’s withdrawal deal this coming week, that extension could be longer.
In another sign of the momentum behind the anti-Brexit movement, thousands of people converged on central London on Saturday for a “People’s Vote” march, calling for a second referendum.