The woman whose court case derailed the Government’s Brexit plans has forced Nigel Farage to admit that the EU referendum was only “advisory” under current law.
During a live TV clash, businesswoman Gina Miller told the UKIP leader that “what you argued for the whole way through [was] Parliamentary sovereignty” and the High Court had delivered exactly that.
In its historic judgement last week, the court ruled Theresa May had to consult Parliament before triggering the formal Article 50 process of quitting the EU.
Farage warned that if MPs and peers now frustrated the will of the people for Brexit there would be ‘political anger’ on the streets, and urged Leavers to ‘try and get even’ through ‘peaceful protest’.
But Miller said politicians should have been straight with the public that referendum was not legally binding.
And on BBC1’s Andrew Marr Show, Farage conceded: “I take the advisory point. And I would now wish to see constitutional change to make referendums binding.”
Cabinet minister David Lidington later admitted the same point, declaring “you could say in strict legal terms the referendum was advisory, not binding”.
The pair locked horns on the TV show as Theresa May urged MPs and peers not to “tie our hands” in talks with Brussels over the exact terms of Brexit.
After days of claims that the Government was not protecting the High Court judges from attack, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt clarified that “the independence of the judiciary is the absolute bedrock of our democracy”.
But Farage stepped up his own criticism of the court and warned that if Parliament blocked the referendum result there would be anger.
Miller told the UKIP leader: “Do you want a country where we have no process?
“If Parliament wanted to, the Referendum Act would not have said it [the referendum] was advisory. The politicians lied all the way through, [they] didn’t say that.”
Farage asked her “What part of the word ‘Leave’ don’t you understand?”
But Miller hit back: “So should we sack all the MPs and they go home? We have a representative democracy, which means they have to go in there and debate, that’s what Parliament’s for.
“That’s what you argued for the whole way through, Parliamentary sovereignty.”
Farage replied: “This not about whether Parliament is sovereign, it’s about whether the British people are sovereign. That’s the real argument.”
Miller countered that “You should actually be my biggest fan because I’ve just created the legal certainty so that Theresa May can now go ahead, rather than appealing, have the debate and leave.”
The businesswoman insisted that the main benefit of the court case was it had clarified that under the current law a Prime Minister cannot use Royal Prerogative powers to unpick previous laws on joining the EU. “We do not live in a tin-pot dictatorship,” she said.
Although he conceded that the law had to be changed to make referendums binding, Farage warned of trouble on the streets if Parliament blocked the Brexit process.
“Believe you me if people in this country think that they’re going to be cheated, they’re going to be betrayed, then we will see political anger the likes of which none of us in our lifetimes have ever witnessed in this country.
“The temperature of this is very, very high. I’m going to say to everybody watching this who was on the Brexit side, let’s try and get even, let’s have peaceful protest and let’s make sure in any form of election we don’t support people who want to overturn this process.”
Asked whether that could mean “disturbances in the street”, he replied: “Yeah, I think that’s right.”
But Miller said that “the papers, the [Daily] Mail in particular, have been shameful”.
The Mail sparked outrage among lawyers last week when it declared on its front page that the three judges in the Brexit case were “Enemies of the People”.
Miller has received rape and death threats for her role in the Brexit process, and some newspapers highlighted the fact that she was born in Guyana although she grew up in the UK.
She told the Marr Show that the backlash had brought out the “dark side” of society, with “every -ism you can think of, sexism, racism..”
“I was aware there would be nastiness because anything to do with the word Brexit, people lose their minds and it’s all about heart.”
Commons Leader and former Europe minister David Lidington later told ITV1’s Peston on Sunday programme that while the EU referendum was only advisory, politicians on all sides had made clear beforehand that they would accept the result.
“Everybody accepted that while in strict legal terms, you could say the referendum was advisory not legally binding, we all accepted it was politically binding on the Government of the day and on Parliament.”