Belfast Telegraph

Woman behind Brexit legal battle labels Commons vote 'irrelevant'

The businesswoman behind the legal battle against triggering Brexit without parliamentary approval has described last week's Commons vote on the issue as "irrelevant" and a "red herring".

Investment fund manager and philanthropist Gina Miller told the Press Association that the motion was not legally binding, and only opens the door for MPs to vote on the timing of the Brexit negotiations, rather than the plans in their entirety.

"The motion is to set up a timetable, it actually doesn't say anything about the contents (of the Brexit negotiations).

"The inference was that that motion - having passed in the Government's favour - that we should basically pack up and go home, because that's Parliament taking responsibility and looking after itself.

"And we would argue no, it's actually a red herring in that it's a political move, it's not a legal one," she said.

MPs backed a motion on Wednesday that calls on the Government to publish its Brexit plan and trigger Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union before March 31 by 448 votes to 75.

However, Brexit Secretary David Davis said that while the Government will set out its "strategic plans" before launching the formal mechanism for withdrawal from the EU, it will not reveal anything which might "jeopardise our negotiating position".

Ms Miller said it was important to recognise that a motion does not hold the same weight as an Act of Parliament, which is a law that is enforceable across the UK.

She added: "A motion or a resolution are irrelevant to our case. Our case is simply that only primary legislation, only an Act of Parliament, will do."

The Commons vote came just a day before the Supreme Court case came to a close.

A ruling is set to be issued in January.

The Government was appealing against a unanimous High Court ruling which said Prime Minister Theresa May does not have the power to bypass MPs by relying on the royal prerogative to trigger Article 50.

It would mean that MPs and peers have the opportunity to table amendments to make the Prime Minister reveal more about her negotiating strategy, or spell out priorities for the talks, before triggering the two-year period of divorce negotiations with the 27 other countries in the EU bloc.

But Ms Miller said that she was optimistic that the ruling would be in her favour.

"I don't feel that they put up as strong an argument as they could have, possibly. So it's all a little baffling, and their arguments were quite circular rather than (having) any sort of real depth to them."

She added: "I don't believe that the Government have really addressed the central legal arguments that we won on in the High Court, so we're feeling fairly confident."

In response to the comments, a Government spokesperson said: "The country voted to leave the European Union in a referendum provided for by an Act of Parliament. We are determined to respect the will of the British people and intend to trigger Article 50 by the end of March next year.

"Last week, Parliament indicated its support for the Government's timetable. As our position in the Supreme Court Appeal made clear, we do not believe another Act of Parliament is necessary."