Gina versus Theresa: Round Three Looms

Written By: Andrew Rosthorn
Published: March 2, 2017 Last modified: March 2, 2017

Gina Miller, the woman who forced Theresa May to ask Pariiament for permission to take the UK out of the EU, says she is ready to take the government back to court.

After pro-Brexit ministers assured reporters that the House of Commons will override any Lords amendments to the Article 50 bill, Miller said in an email to Bloomberg this afternoon:

If the government includes the amendment to give Parliament a meaningful vote in 18 months time, before handing to the EU Commission, there will be no need for further legal action.

But if the government tries to invoke the Henry VIII powers to prevent full scrutiny, that is another matter. Parliament is the sole, supreme legislative authority to create, repeal or amend our laws.”

Last night’s House of Lords amendment to Theresa May’s brutally short EU (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill  marked Theresa May’s first parliamentary defeat since she came to power after the EU Referendum last June. The amendment protects the rights of EU citizens living in Britain to stay in Britain.

The Brexiteer and former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith MP described the 256 – 358 defeat as ‘a bit of posturing by some people in the Lords who are beating their chests and puffing out their own sense of self-importance’ .

Downing Street said the Commons will defeat the new amendment.

It would take a rebellion by at least fifteen Tory MPs to stop Theresa May killing the Lords amendment in the Commons.

The Lords may yet force another amendment on to the face of the bill, in the hope of ensuring that any Brexit deal must be approved by majorities in both houses of parliament. The Tory peer Lord Heseltine has already announced his support.

Many of Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour MPs astonished the world by voting with the Tories on the Article 50 bill in the Commons, although Labour’s shadow Brexit minister Sir Keir Starmer has since said Labour MPs will support any Lords amendment to give the Commons final word on leaving the European Union: ‘If it’s won in the Lords then of course we’ll be supporting it.’

Gina Miller, a millionairess whose legal team and crowd-funded legal allies have already defeated Theresa May in the High Court and the Supreme Court, told BBC Radio 5 Live she is reluctant to take the government back to court for denying Parliament the final say on Brexit but

It’s frustrating that they’re taking their salaries, they’re taking their expenses and they’re sitting there and not doing their job. They’re not putting the country first; they’re putting their political careers first.

They have been whipped within an inch of their political careers and have not voted with their consciences.

Therefore I felt the need to speak up again because we have to have full scrutiny. We have to have proper functioning democracy and we don’t have that because we don’t have a fully functioning opposition and we don’t have ministers using and voting with their conscience.

Polly Toynbee described the Lords amendment debate on Article 50 in The Guardian today:

The Lords debate exposed the prime minister’s contradictory and deceitful arguments against protecting EU citizens living here. If, on this most popular and painfully human question, she will give no inch, that’s a terrible augury for how she intends to conduct these negotiations, opening with a war cry to all 27 countries: we hold your people hostage.

The Labour Party has today published the amendment that  peers will debate in the Lords next Tuesday:

Insert the following new clause – Parliamentary approval for the outcome of negotiations with the European Union:

:: The Prime Minister may not conclude an agreement with the European Union under Article 50 (2) of the Treaty on European Union on the terms of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU without the approval of both Houses of Parliament.

:: Such approval shall be required before the European Parliament debates and votes on that agreement.

:: The prior approval of both Houses of Parliament shall also be required in relation to an agreement on the future relationship of the UK with the EU.

:: The prior approval of both Houses of Parliament shall also be required in relation to any decision by the Prime Minister that the UK shall leave the EU without an agreement as to the applicable terms.