Death threats for businesswoman leading Brexit challenge
The businesswoman leading a high-powered legal challenge against Prime Minister Theresa May’s right to trigger Brexit negotiations told AFP she has received death threats and accusations of treason.
Gina Miller, co-founder of investment fund SCM Private, wants parliament to legislate on the terms of Brexit before May can trigger Article 50 of the EU’s Lisbon Treaty — starting the formal procedure for leaving the European Union.
If she wins, the 51-year-old could delay the Brexit timetable for months — but she rejects the accusation made by May against her and other claimants that they want to “subvert” the result of the referendum on Britain’s EU membership.
“This is not about whether we should stay or leave — this is actually about how we leave,” Miller said in an AFP interview on Wednesday in front of the Houses of Parliament, a day before the High Court case begins.
Miller said that other business leaders, despite being critical of May’s Brexit plans, have not joined her legal campaign because “people are really frightened to put their heads above the parapet”.
“I myself have received death threats… Apparently my head belongs on Traitors’ Gate,” she said, referring to the arch through which prisoners were brought to the Tower of London in the 16th century.
“Our business has been boycotted. It’s been quite vile. But I won’t be bullied because to my mind this is best for everyone, to have legal certainty”.
Miller said that certainty was important to her business, which relies on “passporting” — a tool that gives City of London financial firms the right to access markets across the EU.
Her company, which launched in 2009, has £100 million (111 million euros, $122 million) in its portfolios.
– ‘Sick to my stomach’ –
Statements by May and other government ministers appearing to point to a clean break from European markets for British firms have inflamed the Brexit debate across the continent and plunged the value of the pound.
The government says it has “royal prerogative” — a type of executive privilege — to negotiate Brexit without needing a legally-binding parliamentary vote.
The fund manager is being represented pro bono by Mishcon de Reya, a prestigious law firm whose offices were picketed by pro-Brexit campaigners in July for taking on the case shortly after the referendum.
Miller was herself involved in the campaign to stay in the EU and described her shocked reaction when the results of the June 23 vote began to filter through.
“The morning of the 24th, like so many millions of people, I felt completely sick to my stomach.
“I knew there was no plan… There was this assumption that we wouldn’t leave so there was no plan A, B or C and that really concerned me.”
She says her battle is not mainly about her business but about the principle of parliament’s rights.
“If we bypass or we set a precedent… that a prime minister can decide what rights we have and what rights we don’t, then basically we go back to being a dictatorship and we roll back democracy 400 years.”