Can The Internet Reverse The Brexit?
An online petition with 150,000 signatures is nothing more than a desperate lifeline
Britons woke up to the reality Friday that their sovereign state had voted to leave the European Union. While this was happy news to some (older and less-educated voters, according to statistics), for others it was devastating, but yet they saw a thin sliver of hope.
Back in May, one William Oliver Healey created a petition to Parliament asking the government to implement a rule requiring a new referendum on two conditions: if neither side won at least 60 percent of the vote in a referendum in which less than 75 percent of voters turned out. That would apply here, with a 72 percent turnout, and a vote of 52 percent to leave and 48 percent to stay. As of midday EST on Friday, the petition has 151,000 signatures and is rising fast, putting it well past the 100,000 signature threshold to get a government response and be considered for debate in Parliament (The UK’s government petition response policy is similar to America’s, where a petition that earns 100,000 signatures in 30 days gets a response from the White House. Like this). At one point, the petition site crashed under the weight of so many people trying to access it.
That said, petitions aren’t all that effective—even when they have loads of signatures. According to the Guardian, just because a 100,000-signature-plus petition “could” be debated in Parliament doesn’t mean it definitely will be, and many of them aren’t. Also, the “rule” this petition calls for would require new legislation. Had it been debated and acted upon ahead of the referendum, it might have had a chance of being enforced. But one of the basic pillars of law is that new laws are not applied retroactively, so the government couldn’t write a new rule, and then apply it to a referendum which has already take place. The ship has sailed on this petition. Sorry, Britain. Toodle Pip.
Meanwhile, over at Change.org, there’s a petition calling for London, which voted to remain, to declare independence from the UK (Lexit?) and join the EU. It has 62,000 signatures.
What could “save” the UK from leaving the EU isn’t a petition, but the fact that the referendum is not legally binding. As the Guardian points out, Prime Minister David Cameron must inform the EU that Britain wants to leave, and formally start the process that could take up to two years. He could simply not do this, and put the execution of the people’s will in the hands of parliament, even though that would go against his promise to abide by the referendum’s results.
Perhaps the best way Britons can use the internet to mitigate the devastating effects of the Brexit is to find a new nationality.