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Brexit Redux? Petition for Second EU Vote Hits 3 Million Signatures

An online petition calling for a second referendum on Britain’s exit from the European Union surpassed 3 million signatures.
Image: Brexit
People walk over Westminster Bridge wrapped in Union flags toward the Queen Elizabeth Tower and the Houses of Parliament in central London on Sunday.ODD ANDERSEN / AFP - Getty Images

LONDON — An online petition calling for a second referendum on Britain's exit from the European Union surpassed 3 million signatures Sunday, highlighting the tumult sweeping the country in the wake of the shock decision.

The petition calls on the government to implement a rule stating that if the "Remain" or "Leave" camps won less than 60 percent of the vote with less than a 75 percent turnout, "there should be another referendum."

The referendum has been deeply divisive for the United Kingdom. The "Leave" campaign had racked up 17.4 million votes — compared to 16.1 million backing the status quo — giving “Leave” 51.9 percent of the ballot.

The online petition site hosted by the House of Commons website crashed Friday under the weight of the activity as officials said they'd seen unprecedented interest in the measure.

In a twist, it emerged Sunday that the petition's creator was, in fact, in favor of so-called Brexit. In a message posted to Facebook, William Oliver Healey sought to distance himself from the petition, saying it had been hijacked by those in favor of remaining in the EU.

Any petition with more 100,000 signatures automatically gets a hearing in Parliament. Late last year, an online petition to bar presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump from the U.K. gathered more than half a million signatures — making it the the most popular petition at the time.

In spite of the record numbers, the petition, which would compel legislators only to discuss the issue in Parliament, is not expected to result in a EU reversal.

The U.K.'s unprecedented decision to leave the European Union reverberated throughout the weekend. On Saturday, officials from the bloc's six original founding members called for exit negotiations to begin immediately.

On Sunday, the leader of Britain's main opposition party was facing an open revolt as political turmoil continued to grip the country.

Meanwhile, Nicola Sturgeon, first minister of Scotland, which voted strongly to stay in the EU, said she would "consider" advising the Scottish Parliament to derail the move by withholding "legislative consent" for a British exit.

"If the Scottish Parliament was judging this on the basis of what's right for Scotland, then the option of saying 'We're not going to vote for something that is against Scotland's interests' — of course, that is on the table," Sturgeon said.

Sturgeon said she believes Scotland's approval is required for the move, but she conceded that the British government would likely take "a very different view."

Scotland looms large because Sturgeon has said another referendum on Scottish independence from Britain is "highly likely" as a result of the EU vote. A Scottish referendum in 2014 ended with voters deciding to remain in Britain, but analysts believe Britain's withdrawal from the EU may strengthen the independence movement.