- Brexit High Court challenger Gina Miller threatens new challenge if there is no “meaningful vote” on the prime minister’s final deal.
- Miller says government will be in “contempt of court” if no final vote is held.
- She denies wanting to block Brexit and opposes a second referendum.
- She has been hte victim of press harassment and personal threats
- Miller blames her case on Labour’s weak opposition to Brexit.
LONDON — At the end of last year Gina Miller changed the course of British political history after winning a High Court challenge against the government on Brexit.
The court ruled that MPs must be given a vote on Britain’s exit from the EU, before Theresa May pulls the trigger on Article 50 — the formal two-year Brexit negotiation process.
Miller instantly became a hate figure for many Brexit supporters and Brexit-supporting papers. Soon she became the focus of repeated front-page attacks in the Daily Mail, with the paper labelling the judges in her case “enemies of the people.“
Miller suffered numerous threats to her life, with the Police advising her to stay indoors. Miller believes the press were trying to break her.
I have got a thick skin, but at the same time they have gone beyond what I thought was reasonable
“I have got a thick skin, but at the same time they have gone beyond what I thought was reasonable,” she told Business Insider in a phone interview.
“They have gone to huge lengths. From sending someone out to the village my father was born in the middle of nowhere in Guyana, to tracking down my friends around the world from when I was 10 years old to find out whether I was bullied at school.”
“They tried to dig up, but couldn’t find, my degree because so I had to point out that my college has now merged with somewhere else, so yes they have been harassing me because they want to find dirt.”
She puts the attacks down to the cynical world view of British newspapers.
“One editor of one of the publications said to me ‘Gina the thing is you’re an enigma’ and I said what does that mean? And he said ‘because we don’t believe anyone does anything for the right reasons’ and I said well that says more about you than it does about me because there are lots of people out there who do things for the right reasons every single day.”
However, she also believes that there was a darker purpose to the attacks.
“I’m also aware from conversations from people who have leaked things to me, that one of the thinkings in particular publications was that if they could break me before the hearing in October [the case would be dropped],” she said.
“Because they knew full well that I was the only client, even though they had written that there were people behind me. They knew full well it was only me, they thought that if they could break me then I would drop the case because a lawyer cannot proceed in this country without a claimant, without a client. So I know that that was what they were trying to do.”
Despite it all, Miller is determined to fight on.
This week she announced that she will take the government to court for contempt if they fail to agree a “meaningful vote” on Prime Minister Theresa May’s final deal.
The House of Lords are likely to pass an amendment calling for such a vote next week. However Downing Street say they are determined to overturn it when it returns to the Commons on the March 13. If they do so, Miller believes they will be in contempt of the judgment made by the Supreme Court.
“It’s about upholding the judgment in our case,” she insists.
“If they try to push through this idea that in 18 months there is just going to be a resolution then that isn’t good enough.”
They thought that if they could break me then I would drop the case
The Supreme Court ruled that Britain could only be taken out of the EU via a vote in the Commons. Miller believes this applies just as much to the final exit deal as it does to triggering Article 50.
“My argument is that if you look at, I think it is paragraph 124 of the judgment, it says there does need to be legal certainty at that stage and our view is yes you do need it at that stage.”
“I don’t have much faith in political promises”
But if Parliament decides not to hold such a meaningful vote, then surely the terms of the original High Court judgement have been upheld?
“No,” she said.
“They’re not because the question is are they doing this because it’s a matter of conscience or are they doing it because they have been bullied? Because looking at what went on, with the whip on both sides of the House of Commons, then my argument is that they are actually being bullied.
My argument is that MPs are actually being bullied.
The Prime Minister Theresa May has promised MPs a final vote. Isn’t that good enough?
“I don’t have much faith in political promises,” Miller said in response.
“We don’t know whether she will be prime minister at the time. You don’t know what the political circumstances will be in 18 months time which is why I would argue that the legal certainty needs to be now. A promise is just not good enough.”
“Everybody should want Article 50 to be triggered as early as possible”
Most of the attacks on Miller have accused her of trying to block Brexit. However, she insists that has never been her aim.
“I say to those who say that just move on. I’m apparently now a ‘wrexiteer.’ In fact I actually want Article 50 to be triggered,” said Miller.
“Everybody should want Article 50 to be triggered as early as possible because you will not know the negotiated package. And I am terrified that the 18 months could be as little as nine months because of the French vote, what’s going on in Holland, what’s going on in Germany.
“It could be that they’re not interested in us at the moment until they have settled their own domestic landscape. So it could be that we have a very short period in reality. and nobody is talking about the practicalities and pragmatism of this process going forward.”
“I don’t think there is any point in a second referendum”
Despite wanting Parliament to have the final say, she dismisses the idea, pushed by the Liberal Democrats and others of holding a second referendum.
“There are a lot of people making noises about a second referendum but actually I’m not in favour,” said Miller.
“I don’t think there is any point in a second referendum, so [former Prime Minister Tony] Blair or whoever it is pushing it — I’m not interested in that.
“This is about Parliament. Parliamentary sovereignty says that it is only Parliament that can take away or diminish peoples’ rights. If in 18 months time the deal is such that there are significant rights that are being taken away then Parliament will have to be involved again. It really is that simple.”
Corbyn should be doing this
Despite the press attacks on her, Miller has also become something of a hero among many Remain supporters.
Her dogged fight to secure parliamentary scrutiny on Brexit led directly to the publication of May’s white paper on Brexit and the debates we are currently seeing in Parliament.
Yet for Miller, this is a fight that should have been led by somebody else.
“The sad thing is I don’t think I would be doing any of this if there was a proper functioning opposition,” she told BI.
The sad thing is I don’t think I would be doing any of this if there was a proper functioning opposition
In other words, if the Labour party were an effective opposition it would have been them leading this charge rather than her.
“I think the problem with the Labour party, and I’m saying this as a Labour voter, is that I don’t think you can be effective unless you’re going to be able to win an election,” she said.
“I don’t think it matters how amazing your policies are, if you are in opposition you can’t do anything really. You need to be in power.
She adds that Labour’s problem goes well beyond Corbyn.
“It’s not just Corbyn. I do think he is the wrong leader, but they have to look at their policies, the structure of their party, their communications, who is it they are representing, who are they talking to, are they a 20th century party that is not relevant in its present form in the 21st century? There are lots of things, it’s not just the leadership,” she said.
So what happens next?
I ask her what her best case scenario is for Brexit, once Article 50 is triggered this month.
“I don’t think it’s possible to answer that question,” she said. “Because of the votes going on this year — it’s impossible to tell.”
However, interestingly she adds that such is the uncertainty in Europe, that a ‘no-deal Brexit’ where the UK crashes out of the EU, could end up being the best option.
“It may even be the scenario that that Europe is falling apart and that no deal, us just getting out, could be the best thing for the UK,” she told BI.
“Or it could be that we’ve got a really bad deal and it is on WTO terms and we may need to go back and negotiate again or go for a transitional period. We don’t know. It is impossible to tell. All I’m saying is lets put in some safety measurements here. That means having a proper vote in 18 months time.”
So will she be continuing this fight alone? She laughed.
“At this moment in time there are a lot of people making noises but there are not an awful lot of people stepping forward,” she said.
Whatever happens it seems certain that Miller’s fight will continue.
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