More than 5.4 million people have signed a petition to cancel Brexit on the U.K. government’s official petitions website — so many that the website crashed multiple times.
The petition had received some 600,000 signatures at a rate of 1,500 every 60 seconds before the site crashed at about 9 a.m. U.K. time on Thursday, the Guardian reported. By mid afternoon, the site was back online but suffering intermittent outages. There were 2 million signatures by Thursday, 3 million by Friday, and 5 million by Sunday.
The U.K. government must now allow a debate on the petition’s contents in parliament. But the number of signatures still pales in comparison to the number of votes cast in the U.K.’s 2016 referendum on leaving the E.U., where voters decided to leave by a margin of 17.4 million (51.9%) to 16.1 million (48.1%). There is also no guarantee the debate will happen before the U.K. leaves the E.U.
The petition asks the Prime Minister, Theresa May, to revoke Article 50, the device in E.U. law by which, two years ago, she set off the Brexit process. The U.K. could legally unilaterally cancel Brexit by revoking Article 50, the European Court of Justice ruled last December.
The text of the petition read, “The government repeatedly claims exiting the E.U. 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 E.U. A [second Brexit referendum] may not happen – so vote now.”
A surge of signatures started on Wednesday evening, after May made a defiant televised speech at her 10 Downing Street residence blaming lawmakers for the Brexit impasse, pledging to deliver Brexit and telling voters “I am on your side.”
In that speech, May announced she would ask the E.U. to delay Brexit, thanks to her Brexit deal still not having been accepted by lawmakers. On Thursday, she met European leaders, who agreed to delay Brexit from March 29 until May 22 if lawmakers accept her deal, or April 12 if they reject it.
May’s statement blaming lawmakers for the Brexit crisis was received sourly by members of her own party as well as opposition parties, many of whom argue it is their duty to vote against May’s deal as it is bad for the country. Sam Gyimah, who resigned as a minister in May’s government last year in protest against her Brexit deal, called her speech “Toxic.”
“Resorting to the ‘blame game’ as the PM is doing is a low blow,” he wrote on Twitter. “Democracy loses when a PM who has set herself against the [House of Commons] then blames [lawmakers] for doing their job.”
For May, following the petition’s advice to cancel Brexit by revoking Article 50 is unconscionable. But many Brits believe revoking Article 50 is the only remaining option to avert what even May’s own office now admits is a “crisis.”
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