Gina Miller won the backing of Remain voters across the UK when she took the government to the Supreme Court (and won) over Article 50 in 2017 and now, the businesswoman and activist has set her sights on stopping a no-deal Brexit.
Speaking on Sky News on Sunday, Miller said she will take the government to court (again) and "defend parliamentary sovereignty" if the next prime minister – most likely Boris Johnson – tries to shut down parliament to push the UK out of the EU without a deal. Johnson's leadership rival Jeremy Hunt, meanwhile, has ruled out going to such extreme lengths.
Johnson has promised to leave the EU with or without a deal on 31st October and he has refused to rule out doing this by shutting down – or proroguing – parliament. The majority of MPs are against a no-deal Brexit, which they say could cause huge economic damage, and by shutting down parliament a new PM could block them from being able to object. Proroguing is a prerogative power but many believe it would be possible to challenge it through the courts.
"I think any form of #Brexit would diminish us as a country."@thatginamiller insists her aim to block the suspension of parliament to force through a no-deal Brexit is about the "black and white letter of the law".— Ridge on Sunday (@RidgeOnSunday) July 14, 2019
Follow #Ridge live here: https://t.co/rpG9o75Uy0 pic.twitter.com/RWmMvXWpnC
On Sunday, Miller said that her own objections to Brexit – any form of which, she believes, "would diminish us as a country" – were a separate issue from "defending the central pillar of our constitution" which gives a voice to parliament, and "the black and white letter of the law".
Miller said "limit[ing] the voice of the MPs we all elect" in a desperate bid to leave the EU would be unconstitutional. "We think that it's beyond the prime minister's powers because parliamentary sovereignty is actually the jewel in the constitutional crown," she added.
What is a no-deal Brexit and how likely is it?
In a no-deal situation, the UK would have no agreement with the EU about the terms of its relationship with the single market and customs union. Critics say this could be catastrophic for the country, resulting in a hard border being put in place between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland and severe economic damage. Chancellor Philip Hammond has warned it could cost up to £90bn – despite the Treasury having spent £4.2bn on Brexit preparations. Those in favour of a no-deal arrangement say any potential damage wouldn't last long.
As things stand, the UK will leave the EU on 31st October regardless of whether or not a deal is in place, unless another extension is agreed between the next PM and EU leaders.
How will Miller try to stop it from happening?
As she said this weekend, Miller's legal battle would be over the suspension of parliament rather than simply an objection to no deal. She says she is reassembling a team of top barristers and would seek a judicial review as soon as possible to stop Johnson from bypassing parliament. Her team of lawyers, from the firm Mishcon de Reya, have already written to warn him that it would be both unlawful and "constitutionally unacceptable" to do this, the Guardian reported.
"You would be closing the doors of parliament to prevent it from legislating on the most important political issue of the day, when time is of the essence," the letter read. "In such circumstances it would be unlawful for you as prime minister to advise Her Majesty to prorogue parliament for the purpose of preventing parliament from considering the enactment of a law to stop the UK leaving the EU without a deal."
A judicial review – which rules on the way in which a decision was taken rather than the decision itself – can last months, so taking a new PM to court is no rash decision.
Hi @UK_domain_names - my legal team and I are not just lining up. We are prepared and issued our first letter before action on the 11 Jul.— Gina Miller (@thatginamiller) July 14, 2019
'I’ll take you to court to block a no-deal Brexit, Gina Miller tells Boris Johnson' https://t.co/uMyocwZeMQ https://t.co/2y30XRz3KM
Miller is by no means the only one to voice such strong opposition to the possibility of suspending parliament to push through a no-deal Brexit. Former Conservative Prime Minister John Major made a similar threat to Johnson last week, saying he would also be willing to seek a judicial review to stop the new PM from bypassing parliament.
"I served in parliament for over 20 years. I’m very proud to have done so. I have huge admiration for our parliamentary traditions," Major told BBC Radio 4's Today programme. "I’m not going to stand by and see them disregarded in this fashion. It is utterly, utterly and completely the wrong way to proceed."
On Monday morning, the Tory MP Sir Oliver Letwin also said it was likely that any attempt to push through a no-deal Brexit by proroguing parliament would end up in the Supreme Court, as it was a "legal question". The new PM will be announced on 23rd July; until then – watch this space.