Brexit: MPs to debate calls for second EU referendum



A bowling club turned into a temporary polling station in June's referendum Image copyright PA
Image caption More than 33.5 million people voted in the EU referendum

MPs are to debate a public petition calling for a re-run of the EU referendum which has attracted more than four million signatures.

The petition calls for June’s Leave vote to be restaged since neither side won more than 60% of the vote in the poll and turnout was below 75%.

It comes as Brexit Secretary David Davis prepares to make a statement to MPs about progress over the summer.

He is expected to say leaving the EU will offer “new freedoms and horizons”.

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Mr Davis, one of the key figures in the cabinet tasked with formulating a strategy for the UK’s negotiations with the rest of the EU, is expected to say that the UK should set its sights much higher than just “making the best of a bad job”.

“This is an historic and positive moment for our nation,” he is expected to say.

“It is about seizing the huge and exciting opportunities that will flow from a new place for Britain in the world. There will be new freedoms, new opportunities, new horizons for this great country.”

Post-Brexit future

As Parliament returns from the summer recess, and with Theresa May under pressure at the G20 summit to give details of the UK’s plan for life outside the EU, research for the BBC suggests mixed feelings about what impact people think Brexit will have on them.

A poll for BBC Radio 5Live, conducted by the polling firm ComRes, suggests 62% of the 1,032 British adults canvassed say they are positive about Britain’s future post-Brexit.

On the other hand, 26% of those spoken to have considered leaving the UK and moving elsewhere – including 43% of 18-34 year olds.

MPs are obliged to consider any petition which receives more than 100,000 signatures for debate in Parliament. The EU petition urging a re-run of the vote has now attracted 4.14 million signatures – more than any other in the past five years.

It will be debated in Westminster Hall, MPs secondary debating chamber, on the day MPs return from their summer recess after being proposed by the SNP’s Ian Blackford.


Although the petition was launched in May, interest in it intensified in the 48 hours after the historic vote on 23 June – with 3.2 million people having signed it by 26 June.

But the man who started the petition, Oliver Healey, has claimed that it has been “hijacked” by Remain supporters.

Mr Healey, an English Democrat activist and Leave supporter, has disassociated himself from the petition saying he started it in the run-up to the vote because he was worried that the UK would opt to remain in the EU by a narrow margin on a low turnout.

As it turned out, the Leave campaign won the referendum by a margin of 51.9% to 48.1% while turnout was a higher than anticipated 72%.

The House of Commons petitions committee subsequently launched an investigation amid claims some of the names on the online document were fraudulent.

‘Democratic exercise’

Monday’s debate will not alter the outcome of the referendum since the rules by which it was held were agreed by Parliament and cannot be changed retrospectively.

But it is likely to provide those unhappy with the result with an opportunity to make the case for another vote further down the line.

The Lib Dems, SNP and some Labour MPs have called for the details of the UK’s eventual settlement for leaving the EU to be ratified by the British people in the form of a second referendum but the government has ruled this out.

The Foreign Office said the government’s focus was now on getting the best deal for the UK and maximising the opportunities provided by leaving the EU.

“The referendum was one of the biggest democratic exercises in British history with over 33 million people having their say,” it said. “The government have been clear that this was a once in a generation vote and the decision must be respected.”


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