Brexit: Second Referendum Petition Gains More than 1 Million Signatures

Young anti-Brexit protesters
Young protesters demonstrate against the U.K.'s decision to leave the EU outside Downing Street, London, England, June 24. More than 1 million people have signed a petition calling for a second referendum. Mary Turner/Getty Images

A backlash has begun among British supporters of the U.K. remaining in the European Union, with a petition calling for a second referendum more than one million signatures.

The petition, created on Friday, has already gained far more than the 100,000 signatures required for it to be considered by the U.K. parliament for a debate and has caused the parliament website to crash several times due to high demand.

The U.K. stunned the EU by voting for a Brexit by a margin of 52 percent to 48 percent. The result led British Prime Minister David Cameron to announce that he would leave his post by October, by which point he expected a new leader to have been appointed.

EU officials including the European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker have called for Britain to begin negotiating its exit from the bloc immediately. But Cameron said that he would not trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty—doing so would prompt the start of a two-year period of negotiations on Britain's exit—but would leave that to his successor, widely tipped to be pro-Leave Conservative MP Boris Johnson.

Cameron's decision not to trigger Article 50 immediately— despite saying in the House of Commons in February that the British people would expect that process to start "straight away" upon the occasion of a Leave vote—has bought the U.K. "breathing space" during which informal negotiations on the country's future status can begin, according to British legal commentator Joshua Rozenberg writing in the Guardian. These informal negotiations could continue for well more than a year, according to Rozenberg, who predicted that the EU may seek to offer the U.K. an associate membership of the bloc.

The German finance ministry is already planning the terms of a possible associate membership for Britain, according to an internal report leaked in German newspaper Handelsblatt on Friday. The document did not set out the precise conditions of such membership, but did state that the U.K. would not be guaranteed access to the European single market, as such a concession could encourage other EU member states to consider holding referendums on their membership.

The online petition calls for the government to hold another referendum in cases where the result is determined by a majority of less than 60-40 and where turnout is less than 75 percent. More than 30 million people voted in the referendum, with a national turnout of 72 percent—higher than the 2015 general election, where turnout was 66 percent. Signatories of the petition were clustered around London—where 28 out of 33 boroughs voted in favor of Remain—but significant numbers of people also signed in other parts of the southeast and southwest England, particularly in Bristol.

The high number of signatories is possible evidence of a sense of remorse among some voters in the U.K. at the result. Young voters in particular—who largely voted in favor of Remain in contrast to older voters—have complained of their futures being jeopardized by the result. The hashtag #NotInMyName has been shared widely on social media by angry Remain supporters, but Leave backers have also said that the vote must be accepted as the result of a democratic exercise.

A similar petition calling on London mayor Sadiq Khan to declare the capital independent from the U.K. and remain a member of the EU has gained more than 120,000 signatures.