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Nearly 18,000 people in Norfolk and Waveney sign petition against proroguing parliament

PUBLISHED: 12:10 29 August 2019 | UPDATED: 14:55 29 August 2019

Screen grab taken from the UK Government and Parliament petitions website of a petition titled

Screen grab taken from the UK Government and Parliament petitions website of a petition titled "Do not prorogue Parliament". Photo: UK Government and Parliament/PA Wire

Nearly 18,000 people in Norfolk and Waveney have signed a petition to stop Boris Johnson suspending parliament.

A petition was set up on the parliament website soon after the prime minister announced on Wednesday his plans to prorogue the House of Commons.

Mr Johnson is insistent this is not to deny MPs the chance to thwart a no deal Brexit, but demonstrations and legal challenges have already been launched as the move was branded undemocratic.

As of 11.30am on Wednesday 1,360,705 people had signed a petition online which said "parliament must not be prorogued or dissolved unless and until the Article 50 period has been sufficiently extended or the UK's intention to withdraw from the EU has been cancelled".

And some 17,748 of those signatures came from Norfolk and Waveney, according to website prorogue.info, using information from the petition, Office for National Statistics population estimates, and the House of Commons library.

The most signatures came from Norwich South - Labour MP Clive Lewis' constituency - where 4,243 people had signed.

This represented 27pc of Mr Lewis' majority (15,596), in a the only constituency in Norfolk and Waveney to vote remain in the 2016 referendum, with 59.47pc.

Yesterday Mr Lewis vowed to occupy the House of Commons if parliament was suspended.

In South Norfolk 2,458 had showed their support - some 15pc of Tory MP Richard Bacon's current majority (16,678).

The constituency voted to leave by 51.7pc in the 2016 referendum.

In Norwich North 1,982 of Tory Chloe Smith's voters had signed. The area voted to leave in 2016 with 56.73pc of the vote, but because of Ms Smith's slim majority of just 507, the signatories represented 391pc of her majority.

Conservative MP Keith Simpson's Broadland constituency had provided 1,802 signatures - 11pc of his majority (15,816). Broadland voted to leave by 54.4pc.

Yesterday Mr Simpson said he didn't agree with Johnson's decision and it marked a period of "uncharted territory".

He said: "I'm not convinced by people versus parliament. I can, however, understand the logic of a prorogation and why ministers have urged it because the government doesn't have a majority. The government's ultimate aim is to leave with or without a deal.

"I imagine there will be a hell of a row about it when we get back and in my view this means a general election before Christmas."

This was followed by Mid Norfolk - which voted for leave by 60.6pc - where 1,644 people had signed, 10pc of Conservative minister and MP George Freeman's majority (16,086).

On the suspension of parliament, Mr Freeman said on Twitter: "Real leadership often means doing unpopular things. After three years of Brexit civil war, government has to make a decision, get on with it, and take the consequences. To get a deal we need to show we are prepared to leave without one.

"No deal is the default in Article 50 which nearly all MPs voted for. Labour MPs who voted against the withdrawal agreement (and plan B) caused and are now fanning this crisis.

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"This isn't a 'constitutional outrage'. Parliament is always prorogued for a Queen's speech, the house only loses a week and still has weeks to debate no deal."

Some 1,583 signatures came from North Norfolk - 45pc of Liberal Democrat Sir Norman's Lamb's lead at the last election (3,512). North Norfolk voted to leave by 58.4pc in 2016.

Sir Norman announced earlier this week he would not restand at any upcoming election as Brexit was stopping progress on any other issues.

On Wednesday he tweeted: "Outrageous plan to close down parliament. I thought Johnson wanted a restoration of parliamentary sovereignty? And this drags the Queen into a constitutional crisis!"

International trade secretary Liz Truss' constituency, South West Norfolk, had 1,119 signatories, representing 6pc of her majority (18,312). The area voted to leave by 66.67pc.

Neighbouring MP for North West Norfolk, Sir Henry Bellingham, also a Conservative, had 1,010 people in his constituency sign, some 7pc of his majority (13,788). His constituents voted to leave by 65.79pc in the referendum.

While the area in Norfolk and Waveney which voted for Brexit most strenuously in 2016 - Great Yarmouth with 71.5pc of leave votes - unsurprisingly had the least number of signatures to stop prorogation, standing at 694, 9pc of Tory MP Brandon Lewis' lead (7,973).

Over the border in Suffolk there were 1,213 signatures in Conservative Peter Aldous' constituency of Waveney, some 13pc of his majority (9,215). The area voted leave by 63.41pc.

Mr Adlous said: "We are talking about losing about four days of parliamentary time. There will still be time for the opposition to put down a confidence vote before then. But I'm not at all sure they would win that at the moment."

Thousands of people protested against the plans to suspend parliament, with rallies in London, Edinburgh and other cities within hours of Mr Johnson announcing the decision.

Critics, including commons speaker John Bercow, called the move a "constitutional outrage", designed to stop MPs from intervening as the UK heads towards a no-deal Brexit on October 31.

But the protests were dismissed as "phoney" by commons leader Jacob Rees-Mogg.

He said the move was not intended to limit the time available for MPs to debate Brexit, but will allow the government to tackle other issues.

"I think the outrage is phoney and it is created by people who don't want us to leave the European Union and are trying very hard to overturn the referendum result and don't want the benefits of leaving the European Union."

He added: "Parliament wasn't going to be sitting for most of this time anyway. This is completely constitutional and proper."

With more than one million signatures, the e-petition is now one of parliament's top five most-signed proposals.

In March, a petition entitled "Revoke Article 50 and remain in the EU" gathered more than six million signatures, becoming the best-supported proposal in the history of the House of Commons and government's e-petitions website.

The now-closed petition was rejected by the government, in a response explaining that revoking Article 50 would "undermine" democracy.

In its official response to the petition, the Department for Exiting the EU said: "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 government acknowledges the considerable number of people who have signed this petition. However, close to three-quarters of the electorate took part in the 2016 referendum, trusting that the result would be respected."

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