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Over one million sign UK petition for 2nd EU vote

Germany says EU founding states want UK to begin leaving ‘soon as possible’ and France wants a quick divorce

Published: Updated:

Germany said on Saturday that negotiations on Britain exiting the EU should begin “as soon as possible” after more than a million people in the UK signed a petition calling for a second referendum, an official website showed.

On Friday, “Leave” voters won a shock victory to pull Britain out of the European Union.

The website of the parliamentary petition at one point crashed due to the surge of people adding their names to the call for another nationwide poll following Thursday’s historic vote.

“We the undersigned call upon HM Government to implement a rule that if the remain or leave vote is less than 60% based (on) a turnout less than 75% there should be another referendum,” says the petition.

Turnout for Thursday’s referendum was 72.2 percent.

By 1000 GMT on Saturday some 1,040,000 people had signed the petition on the official government and parliament website -- more than 10 times the 100,000 signatures required for a proposal to be discussed in the House of Commons, the lower house of parliament.

The parliament’s Petitions Committee, which considers whether such submissions should be raised in the House, is to hold its next meeting on Tuesday.

On Friday, a House of Commons spokeswoman said the website had been taken out of action temporarily because of “exceptionally high volumes of simultaneous users on a single petition, significantly higher than on any previous occasion.”

The government responds to all petitions that garner more than 10,000 signatures, according to the official website, which said there had so far not been a response.

The Leave camp won the support of 51.9 percent of voters, against 48.1 percent in favor of remaining in the 60-year-old European bloc.

The result revealed stark divisions between young and old, north and south, cities and rural areas, and university-educated people and those with fewer qualifications.

A map of the petition signatures showed that most came from England’s major cities, topped by London where there is a separate petition calling on Mayor Sadiq Khan to declare the capital independent from the United Kingdom, and apply to join the EU.

UK’s EU commissioner steps down

Britain’s European Commissioner Jonathan Hill announced Saturday that he will stand down following his country’s decision to leave the EU, saying he was “very disappointed” but “what is done cannot be undone.”

“As we move to a new phase, I don’t believe it is right that I should carry on as the British Commissioner as though nothing had happened,” said a statement by Hill, who is commissioner for financial services.

EU wants Brexit ‘as soon as possible’

The EU’s founding states want Britain to begin leaving the union “as soon as possible” to keep the bloc from being stranded in “limbo,” Germany’s foreign minister said Saturday.

Frank-Walter Steinmeier, hosting the six original states of the European Union in Berlin, said they were in agreement that London must not wait to start the complex procedure of extracting itself from the bloc.

“We join together in saying that this process must begin as soon as possible so we don't end up in an extended limbo period but rather can focus on the future of Europe and the work toward it.”

France’s foreign minister also called on Saturday for the European Union to move ahead quickly to seal the terms of a British exit, arguing that the other 27 members needed to give the bloc new purpose or risk populism taking
hold.

“Negotiations have to go quickly in the common interest,” Jean-Marc Ayrault said on his way to a meeting in Berlin of foreign ministers from the six founding members of the EU - Germany, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg.

Italy: EU must change direction

Meanwhile, Italian ministers warned Saturday that the European Union must change direction or risk collapse after Britain’s vote to leave the bloc.

“The unthinkable is happening,” Finance Minister Pier Carlo Padoan said. “A double reaction to Brexit is under way, one financial, one political. The financial one, at least until now, is limited. I am more worried about the political one.

“There is a cocktail of factors that can lead to various outcomes, including a further push towards disintegration.”

Speaking to Corriere della Sera, Padoan also said EU leaders had to understand there could be no more “business as usual” on the key issues of jobs, growth and immigration.

Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni meanwhile warned it would be naive to underestimate the significance of Britain leaving or the risk of a surge in anti-EU sentiment across the continent.

“The UK was not only one amongst 28 (member states). It had a great weight because of its financial markets and its international influence,” Gentiloni said in an interview with daily Il Messaggero.

“The risk (of political contagion) is such that we need to send a strong and clear message (that we are) revamping the European project.”

Padoan said Europe had to face up to citizens’ worries over immigration, unemployment and increasing inequality -- which meant changing the ‘austerity’ budget rules Rome blames for exacerbating the current crises.

“Inequality is growing in Europe because growth is weak,” the minister said.

“Italy respects the (deficit) rules but that does not mean we like them.”

Padoan added: “In the management of Europe, Ecofin included, the prevailing attitude is almost ‘business as usual’.

“But the situation we are in now is exceptional. We have to change our major priorities and we will see if (next week’s) European Council sends a far-reaching signal in that sense, as it should do.

(With AFP, Reuters)