How to overturn the 2016 UK EU referendum

Sign the 2016 UK EU referendum petition to overturn the remain voteWith a petition to hold a second referendum standing at 3.5 million signatures at the time of writing, there’s clearly a desire from a large proportion of the UK public to overturn the leave result – visit to sign the petition for yourself. It’s a sentiment that we can empathise with, considering the massive sense of economic foreboding, the impending dissolution of the United Kingdom (with Scotland looking likely to go its own way in the not too distant future) and the backwards step away from unity in general (read more with our EU referendum – Better off together post). With that in mind, here’s how the 2016 UK EU referendum could theoretically be overruled, and how you could possibly influence it.

The reality is that a referendum is only an advisory stand-point, and while there’s a serious requirement to respect the will of the people, it isn’t lawfully binding, so parliament could overturn the decision. Equally, it could also decide to hold a second referendum based on the fact that there was less than 52% in favour of leaving the EU and lower than 75% turnout during voting, which is the basis of the petition. Taking all of this into account, there are a few permutations to consider in terms of what your options are going forward.


Firstly, though, the reality is that it’s a long shot right now and it would take a concerted effort from millions of motivated voters all pulling in the right direction to make it happen. The petition started on Friday and has clearly picked up momentum along the way, with what can only be described as a phenomenal amount of signatures, which for us should be reason enough to call the referendum result into question before we officially make a decision that cannot be undone for decades. However, by Sunday afternoon the impressive display of concerted concern was already being tarnished with references to “fraudulent” signitures, which seemed a lot like language specifically designed to hack down what was starting to look like a strong groundswell of discontent. If you look at it in this light, you can see that no matter which overturn option you look at, there will be a lot of loud and bombastic naysayers trying to pull it down before it even gets up to speed.

On the specific point around the signatures, there are clearly mechanisms in place to deal with signatures that are not allowed (either because they are from none-UK citizens or double counts), so why is there a need to describe it as being fraudulent? 77,000 signatures that shouldn’t count towards the figure have been removed, it must happen on all petitions, so what you’re left with is a credible figure (3,523,847 at the time of writing). People from another country signing the petition and the occasional foolish double signature do not constitute fraud in anyone’s book.

How to overturn the EU referendum leave vote:

  1. The miraculous Conservative overthrow

    This is perhaps the longest of the long shots in the more credible portion of our ways to overturn the EU referendum leave vote, but in simple terms it means that an anti-Brexit leader would need to win the Conservative party leadership race. The only thing you can possible do to influence this is getting as many people as possible to sign the petition. This would theoretically send a clear sign to potential Conservative leadership candidates that there’s a popular groundswell they could tap into by siding with the Remain side of the fence, while ensuring greater economic stability and keeping the UK united.

  2. The great contender

    Thinking about it, this is possibly even more of a long shot than the first option, as it would require a successful no-confidence vote in Jeremy Corby, followed by the quick appointment of a new, pro-Bremain Labour leader, who somehow manages to rally a tricky no-confidence vote in parliament to instigate a general election and then to go and win the general election. If you want to see this happen, you should sign the petition for a popularity boost, if you haven’t done so already, and write to your local Labour Party MP to ask them to back this approach. When you sign the petition, it gives you details and links to your MP, so you’ll be able to get the appropriate email addresses you need that way.

  3. The do-over

    This could be the best option you’ve got, as long as you can also rally to support the legitimate section of the petition for a second referendum, with all the fraudie talk of fraud. The petition surpassed the requisite signatures for it to be discussed in parliament (100,000) in very short order on Friday, so it will in the very least get some air time when things are back in action next week. If the 3.5 million starts to get closer to 10 million or 20 million towards the end of the week it will be incredibly difficult for parliament to ignore. If you want this to be successful then you’ll need to share and promote the petition as much as possible. A well worded email to your MP would also help to push this into action.

  4. The perfect block

    This is sort of a continuation of the do-over, but instead of there being a second referendum, parliament simply blocks the Leave approach and chooses not to submit the Article 50 motion that would initiate our exit from the EU. There’s already talk of this being put forward by MPs like David Lammy for Labour, so it’s not outside of the realms of possibilities. Again, this would be benefited by more signatures on the petition and letter to your MP.

To summarise, there a few possible outcomes that could overturn the 2016 UK EU referendum leave vote, but in terms of you influencing things to stop Brexit, your best bet is petition signatures and the kind of email tsunami to your MP that would get Meg Ryan hot under the collar.

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