LONDON — Gina Miller, the woman who changed the course of British political history after winning a High Court challenge against the government on Brexit at the end of last year, would take the government back to court if it “tried to bypass” parliament sovereignty.
Miller won a High Court battle last year to force the government to get parliamentary approval for the triggering of Article 50, which begins the two year process of negotiating Brexit.
During a debate titled “Is Westminster the New Brussels” at Advertising Week Europe in London on Tuesday, Miller said that she would “absolutely” take the government back to court if it does not seek the approval of parliament when passing some acts as part of the Brexit bill.
Holden Frith, Editor of TheWeek.co.uk, asked Miller in a panel session if she would “consider going back to court” if she feels that ministers were not able to exercise their duties by voting on acts that need to be passed.
“Oh absolutely. And I’ve already said that. I will uphold the ruling in my case, which is ‘only Parliament is sovereign’ when it comes to diminishing or taking away people’s rights. And we have numerous acts that need to be passed, and if the Government tried to bypass them, or bring in a resolution, I will take them back to court.”
Article 50, the formal notification of Britain’s intention to leave the EU, will be triggered on March 29, a Downing Street spokesperson confirmed on Monday. The notification will take the form of a letter addressed to Donald Tusk, President of the European Council. Once Article 50 is triggered, Britain can finally start formally negotiating its exit terms with the European Union.
And we have numerous acts that need to be passed, and if the Government tried to bypass them, or bring in a resolution, I will take them back to court.
During the Brexit negotiation stage, parliament will have to pass up to 13 bills before Britain exits the EU, according to a leaked Whitehall list of legislation seen by the Times.
A minimum of seven bills must be passed — covering immigration, tax, agriculture, trade, fisheries, data protection, and sanctions — and the leaked document stated that a further six bills may be necessary, covering issues including EU migrant benefits, nuclear safeguards, and the transfer of existing EU funds to various departments.
Each will have to be approved by a majority in parliament, which is likely to test the Conservatives’ slim majority of 17 and give MPs a remit to try and influence the terms of Brexit.
Miller says that she is worried about the next 18 months to 2 years where Britain could see diminishing parliament sovereignty. Here are key excerpts from her talk at Advertising Week Europe:
Holden Frith, Editor, TheWeek.co.uk: “I wonder if you now look back on the Article 50 case with slightly mixed feelings? It was a great personal victory for you, a great victory for parliamentary rights over those of the executive, but it came at a great personal cost to you as well. And I wonder if at the end of it, if you feel that it hasn’t made a great deal of difference to the process?”
Gina Miller, Founder, SCMDirect: “I think it was definitely worth fighting for, in that it preserved the constitutional requirement for parliamentary sovereignty. Because I do think we are in a power grab, in the wider context of: where will power reside when it comes back from Brussels.
“I have been concerned, as I know many others have been, who look closely at what’s going on in politics, that there has been a creep; a power grab and a prerogative creep going on for almost a decade now. And if I just give you some examples of what I’m talking about; just last year alone, if you look at information from the Hansard Society, there is this thing called the Henry VIII power — these are all ancient powers. And I was fighting against the use of the royal prerogative.
“We are now going into Brexit where I see power will reside with a few in Westminster, and they will override Parliament and use this Henry VIII clause, where secondary legislation can be used to override primary legislation and what I can see is happening is that all the European acts will be brought in under this great repeal act, and then it will be the executive — literally a handful of ministers and the Prime Minister — who will decide on our futures and decide which rights we keep and which laws we keep.
“So I’m particularly worried about the process over the next 18 months/two years, actually diminishing parliamentary sovereignty and MPs’ powers, and it very much sitting with the executive and the Prime Minister. And I think this is something we should all be very alarmed about.”
Frith: “But hasn’t Parliament effectively voted to allow itself to be overridden?”
Miller: “It’s voted against itself, which is something I cannot understand. The two amendments that should have gone into the withdrawal bill. One is one of morality and that we should have settled the status of EU citizens in the UK, but the other one is just common sense — that you have a parliamentary safety net, where ministers will do their job of ensuring that there isn’t this power grab. So they, in my mind, voted against themselves.
“But, it’s happened, we have a long way to go and there are lots of other legal requirements along the way. So I’m hoping ministers will exercise their duties.”
You can watch the full debate on video here:
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