'Revoke Article 50' petition racks up over three million signatures

Hundreds of thousands of people have signed the petition Credit: PA

More than three million people have signed an official petition calling on the Government to revoke Article 50 and cancel Brexit.

The petition, which calls for support to remain in the EU, racked up 2,000 new signatures a minute at its peak - making it the biggest volume of sign-ups on record, Parliament's official Petitions Committee confirmed.

Despite the widespread interest in the petition, Prime Minister Theresa May has said she "does not believe we should be revoking Article 50".

After gaining traction on Wednesday night, it quickly surpassed the 100,000-signature threshold needed for it to be debated in Parliament and topped one million by mid-afternoon on Thursday, reaching two million by the evening.

The petition states: "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."

Revoke Article 50 became a global Twitter trend following Mrs May’s statement Credit: Jonathan Brady/PA

The surge in the number of signatures came after the Prime Minister’s appeal to the public on Wednesday night.

In her Downing Street statement, she blamed MPs for failing to implement the result of the 2016 EU referendum and told frustrated voters: “I am on your side.”

Revoke Article 50 began trending on Twitter following Mrs May’s speech and continued to be a global trend into Thursday morning.

Users were quick to share the petition, with celebrities and MPs tweeting their support for Parliament to revoke the Treaty of Lisbon clause which deals with leaving the EU.

Thousands of new signatures appeared on the petition every minute.

Famous figures including actors Hugh Grant and Jennifer Saunders, TV presenter and author Caitlin Moran, physicist Brian Cox and former Labour press chief Alastair Campbell all urged their followers on social media to sign the petition.

Alongside the link, Grant wrote: “I’ve signed. And it looks like every sane person in the country is signing too. National emergency.”

The petition had reached more than 610,000 signatures by Thursday morning before the website began showing an error message shortly after 9am.

The error was later rectified and the number of signatures began increasing, before the petitions site once again went down for "maintenance" and later citing a "gateway" issue.

The Petitions Committee tweeted an apology to those trying to sign, saying: "We are working urgently to get it back up and running as soon as possible."

But despite the technical issues, by lunchtime, the petition topped two million by Thursday evening.

It is now the third most popular petition ever submitted to the Parliament website.

In first place is a 2016 petition which was lodged by a pro-Brexit campaigner before the referendum, calling for a second vote if the first one did not reach a certain threshold.

It racked up almost 4.2m signatures - though creator William Oliver Healey said he was thoroughly displeased that it had been "hijacked" by remain voters in the wake of the outcome.

In second place is a petition to prevent Donald Trump from making a state visit to the UK, with 1.9m sign-ups.

By contract, the most popular pro-Brexit petition on the Parliament website had attracted just under 375,000 signatures by Thursday afternoon.

After the petition hit 1m signatures on Thursday, official data was released from the Revoke Article 50 petition which showed:

  • 960,000 signatories are from the UK

  • 8,300 are from France

  • 4,600 are from Spain

  • 3,700 are from Germany

The website requires those signing to tick a box confirming they are a British citizen or UK resident, and must provide a name, e-mail address, country and post code; allowing citizens currently living overseas to have their say.

However, they are not asked to provide any proof of their address or citizenship.

Theresa May returned to Downing Street from Brussels on Friday to make a last-ditch drive to persuade MPs to back her EU withdrawal plan.

EU leaders agreed to delay Brexit to May 22 if she can secure support from the Commons for the deal next week.

If MPs reject her Withdrawal Agreement for a third time, the UK will have until April 12 to set out its next steps, with a longer extension on offer only if Britain takes part in European Parliament elections in May.

While any extension would require the approval of the EU's 27 other members, the UK could - in theory at least - decide to revoke Article 50 altogether should it choose to abandon Brexit, without needing the permission of other EU member states.