YORKSHIREMEN and women are renowned for telling it like it is and like people to level with them, but that is now Boris Johnson’s way in relation to Brexit.
The leaked Government ‘Yellowhammer’ document – which detailed the “reasonable worst-case assumptions” in terms of the impact of a no-deal outcome on food, fuel and medicines – makes it clear we are all going to be adversely effected. In Yorkshire, the pig sector is set to be especially hard hit with a huge knock-on effect on jobs.
The No 10 strategy of exiting the EU all costs and obscuring what will actually happen by whipping up nationalist sentiment and nostalgia troubles me deeply. All is not, however, lost and my win in the Supreme Court at least means Parliament is now functioning again.
Lady Hale, born in Leeds in the West Riding of Yorkshire, read out the judgment of the court coolly and clearly, citing relevant case law and precedents and the constitutional issues at stake, and explained how Prime Minister Johnson had acted unlawfully.
He had taken it upon himself to prorogue parliament for an unprecedented five weeks for the express purpose of shutting down debate ahead of our exit from the EU on October 31, and, in doing so, was denying the precious principle of parliamentary sovereignty.
Taking on board the great judge Lord Atkin’s famous dictum that “justice is not a cloistered virtue,” Lady Hale saw to it that the judgment was immediately released to the press and published online and of course the entire case was also streamed live and attracted a viewing audience of more than four million people.
It is right, of course, as Lord Atkin went on to say, that justice “must be allowed to suffer the scrutiny and respectful…comments of ordinary men,” but a lot of what was said following that judgment was far from respectful. The official position of the Prime Minister was to “profoundly disagree” with the eleven eminent Supreme Court judges.
In a street interview conducted by the Today programme on Radio 4, it was stated without challenge that all the judges were Remainers and that was why they had come to their decision. I attended a panel discussion at which Lord Lilley, the former Tory minister and a leading campaigner for Leave, weighed in, too, by saying I was the woman who had “changed the law.” Soon, with a wearying inevitability, there was talk of ‘the people versus the judiciary’.
The debate we are now involved in has gone way beyond Brexit, or Remain / Leave, and is about principles that are fundamental to our way of life, the stability and security of our country and who we are.
Let me set a few things straight.
The judges shut down all talk of Brexit in the courtroom and made it clear that the judges had to decide the case on the law only and without “fear or favour.” The High Court had not earlier “thrown out” my case, but allowed my appeal to the Supreme Court on the grounds of ‘merit’.
The Prime Minister, in saying he “disagreed” with the judgement, absurdly suggested his knowledge of the law was superior to 11 Supreme Court judges. I did not change the law. I upheld it.
My case confirmed the separation of powers and the supervisory role of the courts over the Executive. To talk of the ‘people versus the judiciary’ is to turn our system against itself.
As the language of our political discourse descends into name-calling and, worse, calculated attempts to divide us as a nation, Johnson’s inability to come clean about the hard facts is being overlooked. He endlessly repeats the mantra about “getting Brexit done by October 31” but fails to acknowledge Brexit will not actually be done for years if not a decade.
Blind belief is simply not good enough for the business community of Yorkshire and the North East who want sensible practical answers to their increasingly pressing questions about the maelstrom that is approaching.
A survey by the accountants RSM with YouGov showed that 46 per cent of middle market businesses believe a no-deal Brexit would be either harmful or catastrophic to their business. That is a 21 per cent rise over the previous quarter.
Horrifyingly, with just three weeks to go, many basic questions remain unanswered. What about diabetics who need insulin – not manufactured in the UK, HRT patches and medicines for women going through menopause, EpiPens for children with serious allergies – and what about peace in Ireland? Worrying questions remain, too, about the motives of the big financial backers of the Leave campaign.
Soon it will become clear who is on the side of the people and who isn’t, and, in all honesty, I dread when that day comes.
Gina Miller is a businesswoman and campaigner who has defeated the Governmentin court over Brexit and the unlawful prorogation of Parliament.