As the United Kingdom set about to become the first country to pull out of the European Union, it came down to one woman with no political background, but plenty of backbone, to force the British government to do its job. That woman is Gina Miller, who made history when she won her lawsuit against the government, forcing it to follow the legal and democratic process in leaving the EU. Her case triggered Article 50, an EU law that defines the proper exit procedure, which the government was attempting to bypass without consulting Parliament.
Newspapers describe her as a "former model" or an "elite hedge-fund manager," yet she runs a charitable foundation, contributes to UK and EU financial regulation, and has helped draft the financial-services section of the UK Labour Party's manifesto. The mother of three also launched a fund-management business with her husband in 2009 and set up the True and Fair Campaign to shine a light on malpractice and high fees in the investment world.
Miller has long been the familiar face at financial-industry events that I frequented as a reporter, where she was the only brown, female face in a panel of white men, arguing her corner. But after receiving a torrent of death threats and abuse, and with the challenge of Brexit far from over, how can she continue the fight?
I spoke to Miller at her office in London about what drove her to take on this battle, how she copes with death threats, and her plans for further legal action.
Rachael Revesz: On March 29, UK Prime Minister Theresa May triggered Article 50 after holding a vote with members of Parliament, as you fought so hard for her to do. How do you feel?
Gina Miller: I feel exhausted because we still have to combat twisted truths that are coming out of the government. They're talking about two years or eighteen months of negotiations — in reality, the main EU legislators are saying that the hardheaded negotiations are not going to happen until the autumn. If you give people false hope or heightened expectations and you don't deliver, they're going to get angry. I know what that backlash feels like.
If you ask a legitimate question or are seen to be attacking the government, you're vilified as being "against the people." I was just asking one, forward-looking question: "What is best for Britain?" It was never about going backwards.
RR: I read that you are planning more legal action because the government is allegedly planning to use the Henry VIII clauses, a 500-year-old legal tool which allows May to decide which of the thousands of EU laws we should keep and which we should discard without consulting Parliament.
GM: If they don't have full a debate in Parliament, then I would seek the courts' advice. The government has blotted their copybook once and seems quite willing to do so indefinitely. But I'm not going to do anything from a legal perspective right now. It's too early. Prior to Article 50, the politicians didn't complain, as they could have been seen as going against the will of the people, but now that Article 50 has been triggered, they can discover their backbone and I won't have to do this.
RR: This last year has been a crazy one for you. But how long can you continue?
GM: Funnily enough, my husband and I had that conversation this morning. He's an incredible person, so respectful of me and the way I work, my principles and motivations. But after the Government White Paper came out [a bill which lays out how the UK government plans to repeal EU laws without consulting Parliament], he said, "If you do this again, what does that mean for our family, and when will we go back to normality?" I said, "Unfortunately, I don't think we will ever fully get back to that place."