Thousands of fake names taken off ‘rerun’ petition
‘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.