A female philanthropist and investment manager is leading the movement to challenge Britain’s current process for leaving the European Union. Gina Miller, a British activist with an appetite for campaigning against hidden fund charges in the City of London, and exposing irresponsible investment funds for malpractice, argued that without legislation passed in Parliament, Britain cannot begin Brexit negotiations. Her appeal won. Last week, Britain’s High Court ruled that the British Prime Minister, Theresa May, may not begin Brexit talks without Parliamentary consent.
Miller’s team includes three law firms in the City of London– Mischon de Reya, Edwin Coe, and Bindmans– as well as other advisors and campaigners keen on enforcing the laws binding Britain to the Lisbon Treaty. Miller’s case is not, as some have criticized, aimed at reversing the Referendum outcome of July 23, in which 52% of voters voted to leave the European Union. By law, a Brexit requires invoking Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which forms the constitutional framework of the EU and binds its members to certain legal processes. Article 50 is the process by which a member state may decide to withdraw from the Union. It also explicates that withdrawing depends on a sovereign’s particular constitutional process which, in the UK, requires Parliament to pass consensual legislation. This requirement, much to the chagrin of UKIP (United Kingdom Independent Party) and Prime Minister Theresa May, limits the executive’s power to expedite the process.
Brexit supporter and Secretary of State David Davis said: “the results of the Referendum must be respected. Parliament voted to give the decision to the people, no ifs or buts.” Their enthusiasm for Brexit has the endorsement of the majority of voters in the largest Referendum mandate the country has ever seen.
The issue is nuanced, however. If Parliament retains its constitutional right to trigger Article 50, then it also retains its legislative authority over the ambitions of the United Kingdom’s right-wing UKIP, eager to leave the EU. This legislative authority determines the particular process of Brexit, the degree to which Britain will remain participant in continental Europe’s institutions, and the restructured relationship between Britain and Brussels. For many people, this is hopeful. In fact, only 64% of registered Millennials voted, whereas 90% of Brits over the age of 65 turned out.
The outcome revealed what most people already knew: young Brits wanted to stay and old Brits wanted to leave. Furthermore, old Brits turned out to vote and young Brits did not. This discrepancy, according to leading political figures from the Labour party (and some from the Tory– Conservative– party) who supported remaining in the EU, manifested itself in a popular vote that did not accurately reflect the majority opinion of the country. This also explains the dramatic difference between polls, predicting Remain to win by a landslide, and the shocking outcome.
Gina Miller acknowledged, “We are all leavers now”, confirming that her case is not a dispute with the majority vote. Instead, she hopes to closely follow the constitutional code required for leaving the EU, and in doing so, maintain Parliament’s jurisdiction. These particulars will determine high-stakes issues like legal residency for European citizens, border control and immigration, trade deals, and the stability of international markets.
Upholding the sovereignty of the UK’s legislative body is the most precise and nuanced approach to determining the particulars of Brexit. Members of Parliament (MPs) are elected to reflect the views of their constituents which, in a democracy, is often a more sophisticated method to realize public opinion.
Amidst campaigns throughout the developed world geared towards nativism, nationalism, xenophobia, and walls, Gina Miller touches on a poignant point: “the government cannot use ancient prerogative to give and take away rights.” This catalytic time in the political systems of the world’s most powerful nations will answer the age old question of Democracy: can the Legislative body serve as a sovereign?