Brexit legal challenger to PM May - We are not subverting democracy

LONDON (Reuters) - The investment manager behind a legal challenge over Britain’s exit from the European Union said on Wednesday that Prime Minister Theresa May was wrong to suggest that people bringing such cases were attempting to subvert democracy.

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May said on Sunday that those who are arguing that parliament should first approve triggering the formal divorce from the EU were “not standing up for democracy, they’re trying to subvert it”.

Gina Miller, the lead claimant in a group of litigants hoping to get the courts to force May to let parliament decide when, how and whether to trigger Article 50 of the EU Lisbon Treaty, said such criticism was wrong.

“We are not trying to halt Brexit. The prime minister is being very misleading to say we are subverting democracy,” Miller told Reuters in an interview in London.

“In a democracy I have the right to stand up and speak, which is what I am doing,” said Miller, a co-founder of London fund manager SCM Private.

Legal challenges to Brexit are currently underway in Northern Ireland, and the Lord Chief Justice, England’s most senior judge, will hear Miller and others argue their cases at London’s High Court next week.

Lawyers anticipate that the final decision will be made by the Supreme Court, Britain’s highest judicial body, in December.

May said on Sunday she would trigger Article 50 by the end of next March, ushering in a two-year negotiating period to decide Britain’s terms for exiting the club it joined in 1973.

The argument for parliamentary approval before invoking Article 50 is based on a view that Britons’ EU rights established by parliament cannot be withdrawn by the government alone, using a power known as royal prerogative.

Government lawyers dispute that and say the executive alone has the right to notify the EU of Britain’s intention to leave. The government has rejected a petition signed by more than four million people demanding a second referendum.

May said such challenges were trying to kill Brexit.

“They’re not trying to get Brexit right, they’re trying to kill it by delaying it,” she said on Sunday. “They are insulting the intelligence of the British people.”

When asked about those comments, Miller said: “I thought it was unnecessary. It’s incredibly emotive to say it could stop Brexit as that patently is not true. I don’t see how a court case can block Brexit.

“I am saying we have parliament, scrutiny and then a vote rather than an antiquated power which is secretive and bypasses parliament,” she added.

The government’s top lawyer, Attorney General Jeremy Wright will himself represent the government in the court proceedings while London law firm Mishcon de Reya is acting for Miller though it is not charging her.

Editing by Stephen Addison