"We need to defend our rights"


Photos: Alex Schlacher

Gina Miller took Theresa May’s government to court. The Supreme Court judges support her and the other claimants’ view that parliament must be consulted and should vote on triggering Article 50 of the European treaties. Miller, 51, a Guyana born British investment manager and philanthropist, explains why she took May to court.


Cicero: You voted for Remain in the EU-referendum back in June 2016. Did you bring the government to court to prevent Brexit from happening?

Miller: I voted for remain. But we lost. So we have to move on. My case was not about stopping Brexit but about the process how to go about it. The case was very clear. If parliament is sovereign, you go to parliament before you do such an important step like leaving the European Union. This is what triggering Article 50 is about. If a politician does not agree with it, he or she should give up this job.

Cicero: Mrs May has now said that she will let parliament vote on the final deal. Was this not enough for you?

Miller: The acts of parliament are like two bookends. You need it at the beginning and at the end. My case is not about the vote at the end, it is a vote at the beginning. The parliament has to have that debate. In Theresa Mays speech on Brexit there was little detail. There was a lot of rhetoric and a direction of travel. But that is not good enough. In my view, that is what is needed, to talk about every element of what Brexit will look like and what it will mean. What will it mean for our agriculture? What does it mean for science? What does it mean for our schools, our security? Surely that is what is needed. You only make good decisions if you have different opinions, which you weigh against each other. And then you decide through robust thinking. Otherwise they will be voting blind.

Cicero: Why does Theresa May make such a drama about a vote in parliament about Article 50 which the government will surely win anyway given the fact that both main parties instructed their members of parliament to vote for triggering Article 50? What would you like MPs to do?

Miller: Their job. I don´t feel that they have done so. Their job is do what´s best for our country and stand up for the people who have elected them. Not what is best for them or their party. The problem I have with Theresa May is: Her actions are about her party, and not about the country. There has to be an act of parliament to reverse the European Act of 1972 act. If the government decides any other route – be it a resolution or a motion or somehow to bypass the House of Lords, then I will take them back to court for contempt of court.

Cicero: Since you started this case you have suffered from immense abuse. Where do you take the courage to go through with it?

Miller: I was advised not to do it by many people. They told me to run away. But when I saw these heart breaking stories of people living in the UK, who are experiencing some of the worst xenophobia, I thought: If I don’t stand up and confront these prejudices, than they stand. We have to confront it and educate people. I always had a very strong sense of what is right and what is wrong. We have this unwritten constitution. Any Prime Minister in the future could decide to do away with my rights, my children´s right, anybody´s rights if we do not defend them.

Cicero: Theresa May probably just wants to deliver Brexit and too much debate about it could disturb this purpose.

Miller: Everything about Brexit is emotion. It is like a religion. People’s rationality seems to have been thrown out of the window. And there is a real fear. Good people who would normally speak up fear that they would be branded a traitor. That is a really bad place for a country to be in, the feeling that you can not speak up. Since July when the courts made me the lead claimant I have not spoken to a politician. People of standing – academics – have helped me. But nobody would publicly stand up and speak with me or alongside me.

Cicero: Why not call for a second referendum?

Miller: There are so many different scenarios that could happen in the next few years. There are all these elections on the continent in the period of the next two years. The people we are negotiating with are not necessarily the people that we do the deal with at the end. We don´t know about our own politics, if there is a vote of no confidence, or an early election. What happens if the devolved powers decide they have their own referendum, and decide they want to leave the UK? But in any case think Theresa May’s speech on Brexit was quite threatening and that was unnecessary.

Cicero: She also said that Britain would leave the Single Market.

Miller: I don’t think that people knew they voted for that. I had lots of messages from leavers who said: “We back your case because we did not vote for a hard Brexit.” And I am also not sure that immigration was the Number one issue. I would like to see the evidence for this. The post-Brexit vote data does not suggest that.

Cicero: Are you scared for your security?

Miller: My family life has changed. I did not anticipate that side of it. There are incredibly threatening letters. The police take it very seriously. We don’t go out on the weekends. I don’t use public transport. My children have special entrance at school. But we live in a fast moving world. When this case is over, I am hoping my life will go back to normality.

photo: Alex Schlacher

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© 2018 Tessa Szyszkowitz