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Parliament Must Vote On Brexit, Court Rules

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The United Kingdom's path out of the European Union hit a curve in the road yesterday with a ruling from the British Supreme Court. Here's the announcement from the court's president, Lord Neuberger.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DAVID NEUBERGER: Today, by a majority of 8-3, the Supreme Court rules that the government cannot trigger Article 50 without an act of Parliament authorizing it to do so.

MARTIN: Article 50 is the provision that will allow the U.K. to start negotiating its divorce from the EU. The legal challenge was brought by business woman Gina Miller. She joins me now from the studios of the BBC in London.

Ms. Miller, thanks for being with us.

GINA MILLER: Good morning.

MARTIN: The people of the United Kingdom voted in a referendum last year to leave the EU. You pushed to try to make sure it could not happen without a vote from Parliament. Why?

MILLER: Because our constitutional law in Britain says that only Parliament can grant or take away rights. And by invoking Article 50, we would undo the 1972 act that took us into the EU and basically gave us rights and freedoms, and those would inevitably be taken away. So it has to be that we leave the EU - we trigger Article 50 via a new act of Parliament.

MARTIN: What specific rights do you think would be revoked were the U.K. to move forward with Brexit?

MILLER: Well, the four fundamental freedoms that are granted all E.U. citizens when you're a member of the EU - a freedom of movement, goods, services and access to the European Court of Justice - would all be affected.

MARTIN: So you won and now the Parliament will need to sign its approval. But a yes vote is virtually assured in the Parliament. So what's the point of the battle at this point?

MILLER: The battle was about our constitution. Obviously, it has effects on Brexit. But it wasn't about Brexit - it was insuring that there are checks and balances on a prime minister and government and that they can't basically do what they want without parliamentary scrutiny.

MARTIN: You are a private citizen. As I understand it, you're the co-founder...

MILLER: Yes.

MARTIN: ...Of a private investment fund, a successful businesswoman and philanthropist. Why did this issue affect you in this way that you wanted to take action?

MILLER: Well, I couldn't understand why everyone else wasn't jumping up and down and saying this was illegal for the prime minister to think that she was above the law. And my only conclusion is that there's a real fear that has descended in the U.K. after Brexit. people are frightened to ask questions. Anything that isn't seen as the will of the people is somehow being unpatriotic. And I have never been frightened of asking questions. I'm quite happy to take on a battle.

MARTIN: I understand you, yourself, are the target of personal abuse, threats after your challenge on Brexit?

MILLER: Yes. It's very interesting because it's the messenger, not the message, that's been attacked in a variety of media. And it's led to social media and letters and death threats, threats against me as a woman and my ethnicity. I've been called a primate, saying that I'm not even human - threats of beheading, gang raping. You name it, I've had it.

MARTIN: At this point, you have waged your battle. You have been successful. Will you try in whatever capacity you can to make sure that Brexit is successful?

MILLER: Absolutely. As somebody who runs an investment company, then obviously from a point of view of looking at how these negotiations go and what it would mean to the city of London, what it would mean to our economy, then I will obviously be very, very interested and keeping a very close eye on the negotiations.

MARTIN: Gina Miller - she successfully campaigned to require the British Parliament to vote on Brexit.

Thanks so much for your time.

MILLER: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.