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The Government Has Rejected A Viral Petition To Hold A Second EU Referendum

The petition to hold a second referendum based on the fact that Leave won with less than 60% of votes was signed by more than four million people

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A petition to hold a second EU referendum on the basis that only a slim majority of people voted in favour of Brexit has been rejected by the government.

John Macdougall / AFP / Getty Images

On 23 June, Britain voted to end its membership of the European Union with 52% voting in favour of Leave compared to 48% who wished to Remain. The turnout was 72%.

As the pound slumped (it's now at a 31-year low against the dollar), prime minister David Cameron resigned, the UK's two leading political parties gradually began to implode as a result of internal feuds in the wake of the unanticipated result, and more millions of people signed a petition to re-do the referendum.

The petition proposed that because the turnout was less than 75% and the winning vote less than 60%, the result did not give a strong enough case to go ahead with Brexit.

But on Saturday, the Foreign Office said that because no minimum threshold for a winning vote was set when parliament agreed to the referendum last December, it would not act on the petition.

"The [EU Referendum] Act was scrutinised and debated in Parliament during its passage and agreed by both the House of Commons and the House of Lords," a statement by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) said.

It stated that while officials had come up with detailed terms including exactly what would appear on ballot papers, and the date the referendum could be held, "the Act did not set a threshold for the result or for minimum turnout".

The FCO said that more than 33 million people had had their say in "the biggest democratic exercises in British history," and pointed to comments made during Cameron's resignation speech that the final result must be respected.

"We must now prepare for the process to exit the EU and the government is committed to ensuring the best possible outcome for the British people in the negotiations," the statement continued.

The government's Petitions Committee, which is also able to give petitions such as this one consideration, said it had not yet made a decision on how it would proceed in this instance.

While the Petitions Committee could pose a challenge to the Foreign Office, data showed that the petition had gained most support in areas that voted heavily for Remain, but gained little traction in among Leave strongholds, suggesting the result of a second referendum could look much like that of the first.

What's more, the petition was actually started by a Leave campaigner prior to the referendum result when Remain had seemed in the lead, and tens of thousands of signatures were removed after it was thought they had been fraudulently added.

Why A Second EU Referendum Is Not Going To Happen Despite A Million People Signing A Petition

Laura Silver is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Laura Silver at

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