Thou­sands of fake names taken off ‘re­run’ pe­ti­tion

The Daily Telegraph - - Britain Out - By Luke Heighton

‘Peo­ple adding fraud­u­lent sig­na­tures to this pe­ti­tion un­der­mine the cause they pre­tend to sup­port’

OF­FI­CIALS yes­ter­day re­moved around 77,000 fake sig­na­tures from a pe­ti­tion de­mand­ing a re­run of the ref­er­en­dum to quit the EU, thou­sands of which claimed to be from res­i­dents of the un­pop­u­lated Antarc­tic.

The House of Com­mons pe­ti­tions com­mit­tee an­nounced an in­quiry into claims that some of the three mil­lion sig­na­tures were fraud­u­lent.

The pe­ti­tion had a sus­pi­cious num­ber of sig­na­tures from places out­side the UK, in some cases more than the pop­u­la­tions of the lo­ca­tion.

Some 39,411 res­i­dents of Vat­i­can City ap­peared to have signed by 11am yes­ter­day – the tiny state has a pop­u­la­tion of 800. In North Korea, one of the least in­ter­net-con­nected coun­tries, 23,778 peo­ple had ap­par­ently added their names to the pe­ti­tion.

The South At­lantic Bri­tish Over­seas Ter­ri­tory of South Ge­or­gia and the Sand­wich Is­lands is lo­cated 800 miles from the Falk­lands and has a per­ma­nent pop­u­la­tion of zero – but that did not stop it con­tribut­ing 3,000 sig­na­tures.

That was just 300 more than the lobby from the Bri­tish Antarc­tic Ter­ri­tory, home to 400 re­searchers but with no set­tled pop­u­la­tion. More than 18,700 sig­na­tures may have come from France, 11,816 from Spain, 7,031 orig­i­nated in Ger­many, 3,139 from the Nether­lands, 2,492 in Italy plus 4,122 ap­par­ent res­i­dents of Gi­bral­tar – which voted over­whelm­ingly for Re­main last week.

It is un­clear if the re­sults re­flect the places where sig­na­tures were added, as users are able to hide their IP ad­dress be­hind a proxy server. There were re­ports of sup­port­ers “swap­ping” post­codes to let oth­ers sign and of com­puter coders us­ing spe­cial script or a “bot” to gen­er­ate fake sig­na­tures.

The pe­ti­tion, which needed at least 100,000 names to be sent for de­bate in Par­lia­ment, was be­gun by Leave voter Wil­liam Oliver Healey a month ago, when polls had tipped Re­main to win. He said yes­ter­day it had been “hi­jacked by the Re­main cam­paign”.

He­len Jones MP, Labour chair­man of the Com­mons pe­ti­tions com­mit­tee, said: “Peo­ple adding fraud­u­lent sig­na­tures to this pe­ti­tion should know that they un­der­mine the cause they pre­tend to sup­port.”

More than 4,000 peo­ple have joined the Lib­eral Democrats in the im­me­di­ate af­ter­math of Fri­day’s Brexit re­sult. The party has said it will fight the next gen­eral elec­tion pledg­ing to take Bri­tain back into the EU, claim­ing that the ref­er­en­dum was se­cured on a cam­paign of lies.

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