I am talking about this petition: Revoke Article 50 and remain in the EU.

It's got 2.5 million signatures in two days, way more than necessary to be considered for a debate in the parliament.

But what can be politically achieved by such a petition at this point? Is it the necessary support that strenghtens the position of the Remainers MPs? Or it is too little, too late to realistically do anything about Brexit three weeks before it's due?

[Edit: I've just read that April, 12 is the new March, 29. But it still feels like very little time to turn back the tide.]

3 Answers 3


It's a petition like any other, the effect is always pretty indirect. But ultimately, Article 50 revocation will require a lot of MPs to go against the party whip to vote for it, on both sides of the house. The decision is theirs alone. This supports them in that process.

It may also help the Speaker if there are shenanigans with programme motions. Although Lord Adonis has promised on Twitter to move it on Monday in the Lords.

Somebody has to take the bullet for this, possibly in a very literal way; Anna Soubry has already been advised by the police not to return home. It's only going to get uglier.

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    "Lord Adonis" sounds like straight out of Stargate for some reason. Mar 25, 2019 at 9:00
  • In some constituencies, as many as 35% of constituents have signed the petition (see livefrombrexit.com/petitions/…) Many of those MPs a pro-Remain already, but this could be influential to any MPs who have slim majorites and don't want to loose too many "Remainer" votes - particularly if a snap election happens again. Mar 25, 2019 at 9:41

It will trigger a debate in parliament, although they are usually pointless and have no effect on anything.

However, the more people who sign it the more pressure on MPs to at least consider revocation. How many would be required to make it seem like an attractive proposition to MPs who otherwise would not vote for it isn't clear, but for example if it exceeded the referendum leave vote of 17.4 million there would be a serious mandate that would be difficult to ignore.


According to https://www.itv.com/news/2017-01-31/petitions-what-are-the-10-most-signed-and-what-have-they-achieved/ which listed the ten petitions with highest number of votes up to 2017, it would currently be the second highest number of votes ever in any petition.

It clearly demonstrates that the claimed "will of the people" is not actually the will of the people. Brexit was the majority of a vote three years ago, with lots of uncertainty what that vote actually meant. It is clear now that Brexit will NOT be what people vI voted for back then, so I don't think that Brexit with no deal or May's deal is the will of the people in 2019.

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    The 2016 referendum had about 16 million people who voted to remain. Now, a sixth that number have signed a petition that goes in the same direction. Based on this alone, for all we know, the people who oppose Brexit may still be in the minority. I don't see how this petition "clearly demonstrates" anything. Mar 23, 2019 at 16:18
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    Playing devil's advocate, the petition also seems consistent with the claim "the minority who lost the referendum are mad about it". Mar 23, 2019 at 16:20
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    @NateEldredge It's a petition, not a referendum. And for all we know, there might be a petition to leave the EU without a deal, and it might have been running for ages, and it might have gained half a million of votes - about a tenth of the anti-Brexit one - but wait, that's exactly what has happened.
    – gnasher729
    Mar 24, 2019 at 21:18
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    I would say, in general, that when we find that M people have signed a petition supporting X, and N have signed a petition that opposes it, all we can directly conclude is that at least M people support X and at least N oppose it. I think it is very dangerous to extrapolate and assume that those numbers are representative of the opinions of the overall population. There are too many factors that could lead the true supporters/opponents to sign their respective petitions at dramatically different rates. Mar 24, 2019 at 21:28

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