A few days after voting to leave the European Union, over 1.5 million Britons and UK residents had signed a petition calling for a second vote, forcing lawmakers to at least consider a debate on the issue.
The petition on the British parliament website was posted before the June 23 referendum, saying the government should hold another vote on EU membership if the support for Leave or Remain in a referendum is less than 60 percent based on a turnout of under 75 percent of electors. The result on Thursday witnessed a 52 percent of voters backing Brexit on a turnout of 72 percent of eligible voters.
Since then, the petition — which only British citizens or UK residents have the right to sign — was proving so popular that by 1417 GMT on Saturday, 1,580,220 people had signed it with the number rising quickly. It appeared to be rising at a rate of around 1,000 signatures a minute at one point.
Most of those who signed were based in areas where support for staying in the EU was strongest such as London, the website indicated. Parliament has to consider a debate on any petition which attracts more than 100,000 signatures.
Prime Minister David Cameron, who said on Friday he would resign after leading the failed campaign to keep Britain in the EU, has previously said there would be no second referendum.
Moreover, Britain’s representative on the EU executive in Brussels, Financial Services Commissioner Jonathan Hill, resigned on Saturday after having campaigned against a British exit from the European Union.
“I don’t believe it is right that I should carry on as the British commissioner as though nothing had happened,” Hill said in a statement a day after British voters backed Brexit in a referendum called by Prime Minister David Cameron.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said he had accepted Hill’s decision with regret after failing to convince him to stay on. From July 16, the portfolio will be handled by Valdis Dombrovskis, the Latvian commissioner who, as vice president for the euro, already oversaw Hill’s brief.
Hill had already faced calls in the EU parliament to give up the sensitive finance portfolio, which will be a focus of interest in exit negotiations between Brussels and London. He has had a key role in setting regulations that give Britain’s huge banking sector access to euro zone markets.
Hill, 54, a lobbyist and Conservative leader in the upper house of parliament who has become a popular figure among EU colleagues in 18 months in Brussels, said he was disappointed by the vote and would ensure a handover before leaving on July 15.
Cameron himself announced his resignation on Friday. He may leave it to his successor as Conservative leader to nominate a new commissioner for the time remaining until Britain quits the EU. It may take until October to install a new prime minister.
Hill, a close ally and friend of Cameron, said: “I came to Brussels as someone who had campaigned against Britain joining the euro and who was skeptical about Europe. I will leave it certain that, despite its frustrations, our membership was good for our place in the world and good for our economy.
“But what is done cannot be undone and now we have to get on with making our new relationship with Europe work as well as possible.”