A Tory councillor who called for anyone supporting EU membership to be charged with treason is thought to have been suspended.
Christian Holliday, a councillor in Guildford, Surrey, placed a petition on Parliament’s website demanding that the 1848 Treason Felony Act be updated to include “the following offences”.
They would be: “To imagine, devise, promote, work, or encourage others, to support UK becoming a member of the European Union.
“To conspire with foreign powers to make the UK, or part of the UK, become a member of the EU.”
The petition continues: “It is becoming clear that many politicians and others are unwilling to accept the democratic decision of the British people to leave the EU.
“Brexit must not be put at risk in the years and decades ahead. For this reason, we the undersigned request that the Treason Felony Act be amended as set out in this petition. (These provisions to become law the day the United Kingdom leaves the EU).”
The Prime Minister’s spokeswoman distanced her from the petition, saying: “Different people will choose their words differently. The prime minister is very clear that the British people have made their decision.”
Today, the stunt appeared to have backfired, with Cllr Holliday apparently facing disciplinary action from his own Conservative Association in Guildford.
He was ridiculed by Tom Brake, the Liberal Democrat patron of the Vote Leave Watch campaign, who said: “We knew Theresa May was intent on taking Britain back to the 1950s, but it's still a surprise to see a Tory councillor advocating a policy straight out of the 1550s.
“Let me point out gently to Cllr Holliday that 16.1 million people voted to remain in the EU - and the courts are busy enough as it is without trying to prosecute all of them for treason.
“The Tories should be focusing on keeping Britain in the Single Market to protect jobs and economic stability - not playing Henry VIII and plotting to lock their opponents up in the Tower of the London.”
The petition was also criticised by Cllr Paul Spooner, the Conservative leader of Guildford Borough Council, who called it “completely mad” and “illogical nonsense”.
In a later tweet, Cllr Spooner announced that one of his councillors had been suspended until next the next group meeting in November – but did not confirm it was Cllr Holliday.
The Liberal Democrats saidthat Mrs May should make clear she does not approve of the petition.
"It's bad enough that a Conservative Councillor is trying to shut down any democratic debate about Brexit as treason, but it's downright frightening that the Prime Minister has so far refused to condemn him," said Lib Dem foreign affairs spokesman Tom Brake. "People did not vote to turn back the clock to medieval Britain. The Lib Dems will be the real voice of opposition and fight against a reckless Brexit that takes us out of the single market."
At the time of writing, the petition had attracted 1,187 signatures, a long way short of the 10,000 required before a Government response is triggered – let alone the 100,000 to be eligible for a Parliamentary debate.
It follows an earlier petition from a Leave campaigner to remove EU flags, emblems and logos from all public buildings.
It is believed that there has been no prosecution under the Treason Felony Act since 1879, although it remains on the Statute Book.
Cllr Holliday had not responded to a request for a comment by the time of publication.
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies