British businesswoman Gina Miller took it upon herself to challenge the UK government over its handling of Brexit. With her own money, she took a legal case about the need for parliament itself to vote on triggering the process of leaving the European Union. This made her a tireless defender of British democracy to some and to others a hate figure trying to frustrate “the will of the people.”
So heated is this debate that she’s had death threats, needs police protection, and rarely goes out in public. But Miller, daughter of a barrister, has not been cowed, nor lost her appetite for going to court.
WikiTribune interviewed Miller about the personal costs of going up against the entire apparatus of government, discovering the darkness in public opinion, and her determination to go on.
Born in British Guiana (now Guyana), South America, Miller was sent to the UK in the 1970s for her schooling. With her family not allowed to send money to the UK she had to do a series of part-time jobs such as being a chambermaid to pay the fees. She said her parents instilled in her a strong work ethic and the idea that education was a gift. Her father, Doodnauth Singh, trained as a barrister in London before returning to Guyana, where she said he occasionally hosted Fidel Castro in their living room and was also a politician (The Guardian).
“As a little girl, I would go to court and sit at the back of the room listening to him [her father]. He inspired in me the belief that we must always help those less fortunate than ourselves,” Miller writes (Vogue). Always busy, she told WikiTribune she sleeps about four hours a night.
Miller built a successful career after studying marketing and law, creating a financial services company with her husband. The vote for Brexit in June 2016 led to her own courtroom battle against the process the Conservative government was following. At issue was whether the government had to put the triggering of Brexit to a parliamentary vote or if it could use the “Royal Prerogative” to bypass them.
Miller said that when she realized she had to pursue the challenge alone, she told her husband, “I’m going to be the perfect target – a colored woman married to a hedge-fund manager” (The Guardian).
After the Supreme Court ruled in her favor, the best-selling Daily Mail newspaper ran a front page featuring the judges’ photographs and the headline “Enemies of the People.” Despite Miller arguing she took up this case so that future governments couldn’t use the royal prerogative to implement policies without parliament’s approval, she is now a target, as well as a household name.
An aristocrat called Rhodri Philipps even posted on social media that he would give “£5,000 for the first person to ‘accidentally’ run over this bloody troublesome first-generation immigrant”: he was subsequently jailed for 12 weeks (The Guardian). Questions raised over Miller’s British citizenship, despite the fact she’s British, has drawn vitriol from opponents, including hostile commenters on WikiTribune‘s Facebook page.
While a heroine to Remainers – those who voted to stay in the European Union – Miller told WikiTribune that she is “hated on both sides” of the EU referendum argument. Despite all this, she said that she takes inspiration from actor and martial artist Bruce Lee, saying “the more people send me hate, the more I’m determined to stop this and to speak out … You absorb the energy and redirect it.”
‘If we keep on fighting Remain and Leave, how do you ever heal the country?’ – Gina Miller
Unbowed by the vicious personal attacks and the risks of going up against the power of the establishment, Miller has warned that if the government doesn’t pass an act of parliament, as part of the vote on the final Brexit deal in October 2018, that it would violate the November 2017 judgment (The Guardian). She said she would drag the government back to court.
Miller said she would sue the government if it failed to get parliamentary approval for the extra £1 billion promised to Northern Ireland, as agreed between May and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) as part of a 2017 coalition deal which kept May in power after a disastrous election.
The questions and answers below have been lightly edited for clarity.
To read the full transcript of the article click here
WikiTribune: Why should the final Brexit vote in parliament include an option to remain in the EU?
Miller: It’s not meaningful if you only offer a vote on the deal or no deal. To my mind, it has to be a full, free unwhipped vote, which includes options of the deal and remaining. The idea that ‘no deal’ is somehow an option, it is ludicrous. It is not an option and should be taken off the table. It is so damaging … Even if you are negotiating to leave, I think you actually should also be negotiating to remain, and that’s when you go back and say, well, parliament has said we should consider remaining, but this is what our demand list is.
What deal do you think Theresa May will bring to parliament?
Miller: She may pull a rabbit out of the hat … [but] it’s taken them 12 months to do the easy stuff in phase one. So we’ve got seven months to do the difficult stuff in phase two. I don’t think it’s possible in that time, and what the EU will offer us is something that looks very much like the last trade deal they did, which is Canada … but that’s not great for us, because the Canada deal does not encompass financial services … We are an 80 percent service economy … Why would you want to damage your economy to that extent? [Canada secured a trade agreement with the European Union that some have seen as a potential model for a UK relationship.]
… This idea that we’ve got [the] transition period to negotiate where we’re going, no, we’re transitioning to what we decide in October. We have seven months … So it is a complete red herring that we have 20 months.
What level of personal security do you have now?
Miller: I went through real shock when I started receiving threats, and then I got really sad, and now I’m just completely energized. The more people send me hate, the more I’m determined to stop this and to speak out. I’m a Bruce Lee fan. You absorb the energy and redirect it, and that’s what I’m going to do, because they’ve proven to me that I need to speak up and fight…
I’ve got death threats – gang rapes [threats], [that] my children will be murdered in front of me … even now, I still get them almost on a weekly/daily basis. We get things here to my office. It’s not just on social media. I get letters, emails, calls with the most disgusting messages and images in it. And apparently, now I’m responsible, and I’m behind all sorts of things, and I’m funded by [George] Soros, and dark forces. It’s my money, my principles … And when I haven’t [used my money], I’ve spent the public money through crowdfunding.
I’ve not taken money from anybody who was not British, so that’s complete and utter nonsense. But they weave these … I’m now responsible, I’m the Brexit Witch, or whatever it is — the most hated woman in Britain …
People are looking at us and going, ‘What happened to reasonable, tolerant, fair-minded Britain? This is not the country we thought it was.’ … The police have got, for example, special alarms round my home. I don’t really go anywhere very much anymore… So yes, it’s changed every single part of my life.
What do you think of allegations that Cambridge Analytica was involved with Vote Leave?
Miller: I know there are some commentators saying that it should reverse the referendum. I don’t think we can go back in time. And how can you prove that the result would have been different?
What do you think about allegations of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party?
Miller: I was actually involved in drafting some of the [Labour] 2015 manifesto on financial services, but not this Labour Party. I didn’t renew my membership last year, and I wouldn’t … My husband is Jewish. I have a lot of problems with what’s going on in this Labour Party … I believe we’ve lost the Labour Party to Momentum, and we do not have an effective opposition because if we had an effective opposition, I shouldn’t be needed to do anything … at some point, Labour’s going to have to stop sitting on the fence and come out with policies … They’re after power …
Why did you decide to leave Best for Britain? Would you ever rejoin?
[Gina Miller left the campaigning organization that she founded, Best for Britain, the day after the June 2017 election.]
Miller: No, no. I would never rejoin, and I did it as a campaign … I manage to fall out with both sides quite regularly – the people who voted Remain and Leave – if we keep on fighting Remain and Leave, how do you ever heal the country? … And if we have to leave … We are the sixth greatest economy in the world. We’ll deal with it. We recovered from wars. Okay, whatever it is, we’ll deal with it. Britain will deal with it.
What other, less famous, legal cases or campaigns have you been involved in?
Miller: I’ve managed to change rules, a long time ago, internationally, about [an] … outdated baby formula [which] was actually being sent to third world countries … I also did one with the Dentists Association for stopping, then again, baby Ribena, which had a lot of sugar, and was actually rotting teeth for babies … [but] I don’t want to go to law all the time because the courts … shouldn’t be clogged up with people going to fight for social justice. It’s much better if you can get industries, or sectors, or companies to change their behavior themselves.
Do you have any ambition to hold public office yourself?
[Question from WikiTribune user Roger Bingham.]
Miller: Not in this sort of political arena, because some people might like it, [but] I wouldn’t like being whipped. I wouldn’t last five minutes, ’cause I wouldn’t say anything I didn’t believe in … if there was a freer parliament, which didn’t have the bullying, had a different culture, and we could cross-party defend really important issues, such as education, NHS, defense, housing … if those things changed and I was able to contribute to some of those cultural and infrastructure changes in politics, then perhaps I would become part of it.
What stage are you at with the DUP funds challenge now? [The challenge to Northern Ireland funding.]
Miller: I’m just going to keep on watching and seeing if they do make any payment that doesn’t have parliamentary approval, then we’ve done the, if you like, preamble legal process, so I can go directly to court. Why is the rest of the United Kingdom not entitled to increased budgetary contributions for those things, where the rest of the country also suffering are NHS, education? You have to ask questions about that, and I think the opposition should be the people doing this, not me.
What are you doing these days?
Miller: In all my madness, because I only sleep about four hours a night … So I’m running my investment business and my foundation, and then on the political landscape as well. But I have found time to write a book. Because I worry about books particularly aimed at women … I’m writing a really honest book about being honest and failing. It’s a book about failing. And it’s called Rise. And it’s called Rise because it’s an ode to Maya Angelou’s poem, Still I Rise.
See WikiTribune’s other coverage of Brexit: