A petition to cancel next week’s European Union referendum has surged in support in the days following the killing of MP Jo Cox.
As of lunchtime on Saturday over 20,000 people have signed the statement on the Parliament website in the last few days calling for the vote to be called off at the last minute.
The call comes amid consternation at the tone of the referendum campaign and the temporary suspension of activities by both sides in light of the MP’s death.
Thomas Mair, the man charged with her murder, gave his name as “Death to traitors, freedom for Britain” when he appeared in court on Saturday morning.
As the petition has over double the 10,000 required signatures for it to reach its first hurdle, the Government will be obliged to issue an official response to it in due course.
At the current rate of increase the campaign looks set to hit 100,000 signatures before polling day on Thursday – a bar which would normally trigger a debate in parliament.
However, the petition will almost certainly fall on deaf ears as MPs have broken for recess so they can campaign in the referendum – and will be unable to hold a debate.
Though Parliament is being recalled next week in order to give MPs the opportunity to pay tribute to Ms Cox, it is highly unlikely that the petitions committee will consider the petition in time for the EU referendum.
The petitioners argue that Britain is a parliamentary democracy and that parliament, rather than a national plebiscite, should determine whether Britain stays in the EU.
“According to the BBC 444 MPs of (almost) all parties have declared their support for Britain staying a member of the European Union on the basis of the reform package negotiated by the Prime Minister,” the petitioners say.
“Constituting more than 68 per cent of the votes in the House of Commons, this represents a rate and overwhelming cross-party Parliamentary majority.
“If it is the settle will of such a large majority in the House of Commons, Parliament should now rise to the occasion and asset the very sovereignty Brexit campaigners claim it has lost.”
There were last minute changes to plans this month when the deadline to register to vote in the referendum was extended by a further 48 hours.
Around half a million people flooded onto the Government website to sign up to register to vote – most of them young.
The call to cancel the referendum comes with the Leave campaign leading in the polls published before Ms Cox’s killing.
A string of surveys from Ipsos MORI, YouGov ORB showed Britain on the verge of Brexit.
The European Union referendum is set to take place on 23 June. The deadline to register to vote has already passed.
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