Sir Richard Branson is calling on the UK government to take a “second look” at the EU referendum because, among other reasons, the results were too close to call.
Writing in a blog post on the Virgin website, Branson said the UK’s parliament need to take a recent petition calling for a second referendum, which has amassed more than 3.6 million signatures, “seriously.”
The UK narrowly voted to leave the European Union on Thursday, with 51.9% voting to leave, while 48.1% voted to remain. The turnout was 72%.
The petition, on the UK parliament website, asks for a new rule to be implemented to ensure the deciding vote is at least 60%, based on a turnout of less than 75%. However, while the petition has clearly gathered momentum, The Government Digital Service is investigating it over fraudulent signatures — not least as a huge amount of those signing up purport to come from places such as the Vatican City and North Korea.
Nevertheless, Branson believes in the spirit of the petition.
He writes: “The decision over the UK’s future was based on false promises that pushed a minority of the UK’s total voting population (17 million out of 46 million) to vote the way it did. Two years before Brexit will even become reality, according to EU rules, it is already having massive consequences on the UK economy, and on society. Brexit has fractured the country more than any other event in recent memory.”
He refers to UKIP leader and Leave campaigner Nigel Farage admitting the campaign had “made a mistake” when it said leaving the EU would result in the “£350 million” a week sent to Brussels being re-routed to fund the NHS. That figure was widely contested because it doesn’t include the rebate Britain also receives from the EU.
Meanwhile, Branson is dismayed at the immediate fallout of the Brexit vote — with nearly two trillion dollars wiped off the world’s share prices, UK markets collapsing, the pound dropping to a 31-year low, the UK having its credit outlook lowered to negative by ratings agency Moody’s, Scotland readying itself for a second independence referendum. and Sinn Fein in Northern Ireland calling for a vote on Irish reunification.
He urges the UK Parliament to take a “second look”:
“The vast majority of MPs voted in by the electorate want the UK to stay as part of Europe. In light of the misrepresentations of the Leave campaign, Parliament should reject the results of this non-binding referendum as Nicola Sturgeon has announced she will do in Scotland’s Parliament. Before the UK government invokes Article 50 of the European Treaty and does irreversible damage to the United Kingdom, the people’s elected representatives must decide whether the facts that have emerged really warrant abandoning the EU and whether a second referendum will be needed.”
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