Why everyone’s talking about Gina Miller

The businesswoman is central to the Brexit legal challenges

Gina Miller at the Supreme Court
Gina Miller outside the Supreme Court 
(Image credit: Leon Neal/Getty Images)

The UK Supreme Court is examining a case brought by activist Gina Miller challenging the legality of Boris Johnson’s decision to prorogue Parliament in the run-up to the Brexit deadline.

The businesswoman has been at the forefront of the anti-Brexit from the beginning, first coming to prominence during a separate court challenge in 2016. Miller argued that then-prime minister Theresa May could not invoke Article 50 - starting the formal and legal process of leaving the EU - without the approval of a Commons majority, as The Telegraph reported at the time.

But just who is Miller, and what has she got to do with Brexit?

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Who is Gina Miller?

Miller was born in Guyana but came to England at the age of ten to attend the exclusive Roedean School, on the outskirts of Brighton. She went on to study law at the University of East London (UEL) and has since started her own businesses and become an activist on a number of issues.

Before her involvement in Brexit legal challenges, Miller was best known for campaigning for transparency in investment and pension funds, says the BBC.

Her campaigning made her unpopular in certain circles, and some in the industry labelled her a “black widow spider”.

In a 2016 interview, she told the Financial Times: “Last summer I went along to an industry party and noticed three men staring at me. Being as bold as I am I went up to them, introduced myself and asked if there was a problem.

“One of them replied that I was a disgrace and that my lobbying efforts would bring down the entire City.”

She says she is neither a Brexiteer nor a Remainer, but campaigned for “remain, reform and review” during the referendum.

Miller is married for the third time and has three children.

Article 50 challenge

Backed by a crowd-funding campaign, Miller launched her first Brexit legal case in the aftermath of the EU referendum in June 2016.

She argued that the government could not invoke Article 50 without seeking approval from Parliament, but was adamant that the challenge was not an attempt to overturn the EU referendum decision, saying “we are all leavers now”.

Instead, she said, the case was about scrutinising the details of Brexit, such as “how we leave, how they’re going to negotiate, the directions of travel the government will take”.

“It is about any government, any prime minister, in the future being able to take away people’s rights without consulting Parliament,” she added.

“We cannot have a democracy like that. That isn’t a democracy, that is verging on dictatorship.”

Miller told the BBC that her role in the case had made her “apparently the most-hated woman in Britain”.

All the same, first the High Court and then the Supreme Court ruled in her favour.

Prorogation challenge

Miller is behind the ongoing legal challenge to the prime minister’s suspension of Parliament, currently being heard by the Supreme Court.

She says that if the Government wins the case, the courts would surrender their power to stop a PM from suspending Parliament for a year or longer, irrespective of their motives.

This would be incompatible with the rule of law and the basic principle that “the executive is answerable to Parliament and not vice versa”, says Miller’s written submission.

Johnson has said that he has the “greatest respect for the judiciary” and will “wait and see what the judges say” before deciding whether to recall Parliament.

What do her opponents say?

Leave campaigners insisted throughout the EU referendum campaign that the UK must uphold the core democratic value of Parliamentary sovereignty - meaning the UK Parliament holds power above all else, including the bloc.

But they are less than impressed with Miller’s current attempts to “defend Parliamentary sovereignty” and ensure Parliament is not “silenced”.

Indeed, Miller has received death and rape threats from Brexiteers who have branded her a “traitor”. In the same month as the Article 50 Supreme Court judgment, the Met police issued eight “cease and desist” notices to people who had sent Miller threatening messages, as the The Guardian reported.

Multiple men have been arrested for rape and racist threats towards her, and Rhodri Philipps, the fourth Viscount St Davids, was imprisoned for 12 weeks for offering money to anyone who would run over and kill Miller.

“I have to remind myself that it’s a good day when I don’t get a threat,” Miller told LBC radio earlier this year. “When somebody doesn’t threaten to kill my children, behead me, rape me.”

She left the Supreme Court on Tuesday to Brexiteer shouts of “traitor”, “shyster” and “Brexit now”.

What do her fans say?

Although Miller’s enemies are generally more vocal than her supporters, she has been praised by a number of high-profile figures.

Labour MP David Lammy this week tweeted: “Gina Miller stands for openness, democracy and the rule of law. She represents the best of British and is far more of a patriot than those who call her a ‘traitor’.”

And political commentator Ian Dunt says her name has become synonymous with “constitutional principle”.


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