Could The Revoke Article 50 Petition Actually Work?

George Bowden

A petition calling for the UK to remain in the European Union is attracting nearly 2,000 signatures every minute.

As of Thursday afternoon, one million signatories had called for Article 50 – the legal process which allows Britain to leave the bloc – to be revoked entirely.

Such a move would mean the UK continued to be a member of the EU.

The Commons’ Petitions Committee Twitter account said: “The rate of signing is the highest the site has ever had to deal with and we have had to make some changes to ensure the site remains stable and open for signatures and new petitions. Thanks for bearing with us.”

More than 40,000 added their names in just one hour on Thursday morning, taking the total number of supporters way past the amount needed to secure a parliamentary debate and temporarily crashing parliament’s petitions website.

“The government repeatedly claims exiting the EU is ‘the will of the people’,” the petition stated. “We need to put a stop to this claim by proving the strength of public support now, for remaining in the EU.”

The move would, legally, work, according to experts. Article 50 can be unilaterally revoked at any time until withdrawal, which means that no Brexit remains an option, from a legal perspective, academic Oliver Patel wrote in an article for HuffPost UK.

The petition was created by Margaret Anne Georgiadou, a former college lecturer.

Petitions which reach 100,000 signatures are almost always debated, but this is unlikely to occur before the UK’s exit, currently timed for 11pm on 29 March.

The fast-growing appeal gained further momentum following Theresa May’s Downing Street address on Wednesday night.

The prime minister told MPs in the speech that her withdrawal agreement deal with the EU had the support of the public.

“I’m on your side,” she told Britons watching at home.

With just eight days before the UK is due to leave the EU, May will make the case for extending Article 50 to June 30 at a Brussels summit on Thursday.

May formally made the request for an extension to the end of June in a letter to EU President Donald Tusk on Wednesday.

The PM had previously indicated she would seek a longer delay after her deal went down to a 149-vote defeat in last week’s second “meaningful vote”.

However, she reportedly backed down after the threat of cabinet resignations by Brexiteer ministers, who feared it could spell the end of their hopes of leaving the EU.

In Brussels on Wednesday, Tusk said the question of how long an extension the remaining EU 27 were prepared to grant “remains open”.

But European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker warned Britain would have to leave by May 23 if it did not want to hold elections to the European Parliament – which start on that date – something May said she is determined to avoid.

Amid exasperation at the political deadlock in London, German foreign minister Heiko Maas said that if they were to extend the deadline, “then we would like to know: Why, why, why?”

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, earlier criticised for leaving a Brexit meeting of opposition leaders in protest at who was invited, was also due to head to Brussels to “express confidence that an alternative to May’s botched deal can be agreed in parliament”, according to the party.

Speaking ahead of the talks on Thursday, Corbyn said: “Theresa May’s botched deal has been overwhelmingly rejected twice by parliament. It should not be brought back for a third time of asking. Her government is in chaos, and she is arrogantly trying to bully parliament to vote for the same bad deal.”