Countdown to Brexit: 19 days – An ‘e-petition’ in favour of a people’s vote must be considered by Parliament – and has been scheduled ahead of the ‘meaningful’ vote on Theresa May’s deal

If an e-petition receives more than 100,000 signatures, Parliament is duty bound to consider the matter. 

‘E-petition ‘239706’ - relating to leaving the European Union’ quickly reached 134,073 - and will, accordingly, be debated in Westminster Hall at 4:30pm on Monday 11 March. The petition has not yet reached its closing date.

The exact wording of the petition: “Revoke Art.50 if there is no Brexit plan by the 25 of February.”

Daniel Zeichner - Member of Parliament for Cambridge - has been appointed to lead the debate.


The petition notes that: “Under section 5 (ii) of the Belfast Agreement, 1998 - there is agreement ‘to use best endeavours to reach agreement on the adoption of common policies, in areas where there is a mutual cross-border and all island benefit’.” 

And that: “The Government's own economic analysis published in November 2018, shows that a no-deal scenario will have roughly a 10% decrease in GDP.  The issue is that EU have firmly stated that they will not re-open negotiations with the UK over the agreement and remove the backstop.”

25 November 2018: the UK Government and the European Union came to a joint agreement on the proposed departure of the UK from the EU.

15 January 2019: following an historic 230 votes defeat in the House of Commons, Theresa May decided to go back to the EU over the ‘backstop’.

19 February 2019: The Government’s responded to the petition: “The Government’s policy is not to revoke Article 50. Instead, we continue to work with Parliament to deliver a deal that ensures we leave the European Union, as planned, on March 29th.”

The Government’s full response is quoted, below.

Extracts from briefing for MPs ahead of the debate on 11 March 2019

With the UK due to the leave the EU on 29 March 2019, the Withdrawal Agreement [WA] agreed between the UK Government and EU in November 2018 has yet to be approved by the House of Commons.  Since the rejection of the WA on 15 January 2019, there have been a series of Government statements and votes in the House of Commons on the Government’s Brexit strategy.

The Government has engaged in further negotiations with the EU on the WA, in order to obtain changes to the most contentious element of the WA - the Northern Ireland/Ireland backstop - that would be acceptable to a majority in the House of Commons.  EU leaders have however stated repeatedly that they are unwilling to re-open renegotiations on the WA - but would consider making changes to the Political Declaration on the future UK-EU relationship.  Talks are ongoing with the EU to discuss possible new text that could provide reassurances over the backstop alongside the WA.

On 26 February the Prime Minister committed to holding a second “meaningful vote” on the WA, by 12 March.  If this results in another defeat for the Government, to hold a vote in the House of Commons on 13 March on leaving the EU without a deal and - if this proposition, too, is rejected - a further vote on 14 March on seeking a mandate to request an extension to the Article 50 period in order to delay the UK’s departure from the EU.

The EU Court of Justice has ruled that the UK could choose to revoke its Article 50 notice unilaterally. The Government has firmly rejected doing this.  The most likely route leading to an Article 50 revocation would be if another referendum on Brexit was held - with an option to remain in the EU.   Another referendum has been proposed by the People’s Vote campaign - supported by a cross-party group including a small number of Conservative MPs.

Government response to e-petition 239706 in full

19 February 2019: “The Government’s policy is not to revoke Article 50.  Instead, we continue to work with Parliament to deliver a deal that ensures we leave the European Union, as planned, on March 29th.

Revoking Article 50 would not respect the vote of the British people in the 2016 referendum.

Almost three quarters of the electorate took part in the referendum and 17.4 million people voted to leave the European Union. This is the highest number of votes cast for anything in UK electoral history and the biggest democratic mandate for a course of action ever directed at any UK Government. This result was then overwhelmingly confirmed by Parliament, who voted with clear and convincing majorities in both of its Houses for the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Act. Then, in the 2017 General Election, over 80% of people then also voted for parties committing to respect the result of the referendum and it was the stated policy of both major parties that the decision of the people would be respected.

This Government has therefore been given a clear mandate to implement the will expressed by the electorate in the referendum, and to revoke Article 50 would undermine that mandate.

As it is the responsibility of this Government to deliver the exit that people voted for, and as Parliament is clear that it does not wish to deliver a ‘no deal’, we must secure a deal. However, the Government recognises the views expressed by the House that it cannot support the deal as it currently is, and we are now confident that a deal with changes to the backstop, combined with measures to address concerns over Parliament’s role in the negotiation of the future relationship and commitments on workers’ rights will secure the majority needed in the House to leave the EU with a deal.

The Prime Minister has therefore continued to work with Members across the House to deliver on the decision that the British people took in June 2016 and she will go back to Brussels to secure a deal this House can support.

Department for Exiting the European Union

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John ShuttleworthComment