Written by Conrad Hobbs|
A petition calling for the revocation of Article 50 will be debated by Parliament on the 1st of April. The petition has become the most-signed in parliamentary history, with almost 6 million signatures.
Article 50 is the legislation which facilitates withdrawal from the EU. If it is revoked, the Brexit process would be cancelled, and the UK would remain a member of the EU.
The petition claims to be indicative of the “will of the people” and demands a second referendum on EU membership.
The Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, Deputy Labour Leader Tom Watson, the Liberal Democrats and the SNP have all supported this “final say” on Brexit, attending the million-strong march for a second referendum on March 23rd
“The petition has become the most-signed in parliamentary history…”
However, the government has stated that whilst it “acknowledges the considerable number” of signatories, revoking the article would “break the promises made” to the millions of Brexit voters in 2016, reducing “confidence in our democracy”.
The Leader of the House of Commons Andrea Leadsom MP has also stated that the petition has “far fewer” signatures than the 17.4 million who voted to leave in the 2016 referendum, which the then-Prime Minister David Cameron, who initiated the referendum, claimed was a “once in a lifetime” decision.
However unlikely the chances of a reversal of Article 50, the petition is further pressure on the government and parliament to find a solution to the Brexit crisis and to unite a deeply divided nation.
The EU’s Chief Brexit negotiator, Guy Verhofstadt, has called the petition “impressive” and claimed it had “sown the seeds” of eventual British return to the EU.
Concurrently, the President of the European Council Donald Tusk stated it would be a “betrayal” of the signatories to prevent Britain fielding MEPs in May’s elections, and that “Brussels must be open to a long extension” of the Brexit process.
“…Donald Tusk stated…that “Brussels must be open to a long extension” of the Brexit process…”
This suggests that EU negotiators will use the high signature count as justification for allowing the UK to remain were the option requested. This will help protect them from discord amongst member states over the UK’s right to field MEPs, should a delay last past May.
This comes at a tumultuous time for Downing Street. MPs voted in favour of indicative votes, seizing control of Wednesday’s parliamentary order paper from the government in an unprecedented change to parliamentary procedure, to try and find a majority for a range of possible Brexit options. Though these votes are not legally binding, they carry political weight as a barometer for parliamentary feeling.