The British government has rejected a petition calling for Brexit to be stopped, which gathered more than 5.8 million signatures.
The petition is due to be debated by MPs on 1 April, after breaking the 100,000 threshold for consideration and becoming the best-supported proposal in the history of the House of Commons and government’s e-petitions website.
Rejecting the oft-repeated claim that EU withdrawal is the “will of the people”, it calls for the revocation of the Article 50 letter informing the European Council of the UK’s intention to leave.
The Article 50 letter can be withdrawn by the UK unilaterally, without the need for EU agreement, leaving Britain free to continue as a member on its current terms.
But in its official response to the petition, the department for exiting the EU said: “It remains the Government’s firm policy not to revoke Article 50. We will honour the outcome of the 2016 referendum and work to deliver an exit which benefits everyone, whether they voted to Leave or to Remain.
“Revoking Article 50, and thereby remaining in the European Union, would undermine both our democracy and the trust that millions of voters have placed in government.”
The department said while it acknowledged the “considerable number” of people who had signed the petition, the government had written to every household prior to the 2016 referendum promising the outcome of the referendum would be implemented and people voted with that understanding.
“17.4 million people then voted to leave the European Union, providing the biggest democratic mandate for any course of action ever directed at UK government,” said the department’s statement.
The department added that 80% of those who voted in the 2017 general election voted for parties who committed in their manifestos to uphold the referendum result.
“Revoking Article 50 would break the promises made by Government to the British people, disrespect the clear instruction from a democratic vote, and in turn, reduce confidence in our democracy.
“As the Prime Minister has said, failing to deliver Brexit would cause ‘potentially irreparable damage to public trust’, and it is imperative that people can trust their Government to respect their votes and deliver the best outcome for them.”
The petition will be debated by MPs in the Commons’ secondary chamber Westminster Hall. A Government minister will be required to respond to the petition, but there will be no vote on the action it demands.
The woman behind the petition, Margaret Georgiadou, said on Saturday she had received death threats.
She also said she had deleted her Facebook account after receiving a “torrent of abuse”.
MPs will also debate a petition calling for a second EU referendum, which has received more than 120,000 signatures, and another – signed by more than 140,000 – demanding that the UK leave with or without a deal on 29 March.