The Brexit campaigner, and co-founder of SCM Direct, told an audience at Amundi on Thursday that she has been hugely concerned at the constitutional implications of the UK’s exit from the European Union.
She also highlighted how the EU may push the UK into revoking Article 50.
‘Leave had a very clever marketing campaign’
By February 2016, Miller (pictured) said she was convinced the Remain campaign, which she had been part of since October 2015, was going to lose.
“Because I’d walk down a street to a meeting in Minehead and I’d be shouted at by rooms of what tended to be older men saying to me ‘we’re leaving to take back control of immigration so none of you could be here’. I’d say: ‘you do realise if we leave the EU and we need immigration there’ll be more people that look like me’.” She quipped that that didn’t go down well.
“I’d see the leave posters, I’d hear the ‘take back control’. My background before this was in marketing so I realised how clever the marketing campaign was on the other side,” she continued.
Miller urged Remain to transform its campaign to one focused on staying in the EU in order to reform from within. She said it received a lukewarm response.
“I literally got patted on the back and told I worry too much, that I didn’t understand the British psyche. The people of Britain don’t take risks and they were convinced.
“But what was very strange was that I was being told that by Leavers too. Matthew Elliott would be on a panel with me, Luke Johnson would be on a panel with me, and they’d be saying exactly the same things the Remainers would say. Everyone thought this was some sort of ideological, existential debate we were having but that it was never actually going to happen.”
‘I was more worried about Corbyn than I was about Brexit’
Miller said she was more preoccupied with the consequences of a Jeremy Corbyn government when she took the government to court over its use of the royal prerogative to carry Brexit across the line.
While she thought May had no plan from the outset, Miller had initially been confident the government would establish a plan in the intervening period, which she now admits was naïve.
“I, at the time, was more worried about a certain Mr Corbyn,” she said.
“Because of all the 28 member states, we are the only ones without a written constitution. And if a prime minister had been able to use the royal prerogative, on the domestic plane, to alter people’s rights that would have set a precedent that a future prime minister could also do that.
“I thought at the time however Brexit turned out it wouldn’t be great and the Tories would be tarred with such a negative brush that there would be a possibility Labour could come in with Mr Corbyn having that power. I was more worried about him than I was about Brexit.”
May and Corbyn have both been failures as leaders
With the clock ticking down to 29 March 2019, the UK’s scheduled date to leave the European Union, Miller had harsh words for both May and Corbyn.
“If you understand that Mr Corbyn is a Brexiteer and he doesn’t want us to stay in the EU, he’s playing exactly the same game as May, which is running down the clock. He might at the last minute say he’s going to back the People’s Vote knowing we can’t actually execute it,” she said.
“We’ve ended up with two parties led by two people who don’t’ really listen to anybody and actually behave as if they can run the country like it’s their party, their country; not being a leader that reflects the fact they lead a country and should be a statesperson that are actually doing the best for everybody in that country.”
The Irish border will become the new Calais
The furore over the Irish backstop, a safety net to ensure no hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, highlights Brexiteers’ potential lack of solutions to the conundrum, she said.
“It’s fascinating that a lot of Brexiteers are upset by the backstop, because on the one hand they’re saying there’s these technological solutions, like maximum facilitation, so if they exist why do they have to worry about the backstop? It doesn’t make sense. Either they don’t believe in the technology and the backstop will have to be there or they believe in the technology. You can’t have it both ways.”
She added that the Irish border will become an immigration trouble spot.
“Those 200 miles and 300 crossings become Calais. If Europe is not worried about immigrants going through Europe to us and we can’t actually police it they’ll just walk over. It’s the immigration side as well as trade that is the problem.”
MPs are ‘storing up’ an urgently needed conversation with the public
The UK parliament “cannot figure out how to get themselves out of this mess”, she said.
MPs are “storing up a conversation they’re going to have to have with the British public”, Miller said. Namely, that even if legislation passed this week there is not enough time to implement the legislation required for the Withdrawal Agreement or no deal.
“At what point are they going to turn this around and say ‘we need an extension’. Is it that she manages to get her withdrawal agreement through and then she says she requires an extension to execute that, say to July? Or we end up with no deal because nothing is changing and there is a huge raft of legislation required. Even if you put aside the legislation, what about the litigation that would come their way?”
Under no deal, there are no agencies or systems set up to collect tariffs, she said.
“Rather than collecting taxes we’ll flip to WTO under no deal and, guess what, most favoured nation means we’re going to have to extend that out to everyone around the world. We won’t collect any taxes, we won’t impose any tariffs. And when it comes to financial services, as the FCA put in their handbook, we’ll let everyone passport in but we haven’t quite figured out if we can passport out – probably not. Rather than taking back control and being this uplands we’re just going to let everyone steal our shirt.”
Forced revocation of Article 50
While the UK needs EU27 agreement to extend Article 50, it can unilaterally revoke it.
“The EU may say it will not grant the UK extension because it’s got elections. Actually that’s where their focus is at the moment – worrying about the fact they could end up with around 100 far-right MEPs sitting and that could destroy the EU from within.
“That’s where their worry is now and they’ll point to the case in December and say ‘you’ll have to revoke, we can’t grant an extension’. That conversation has already been had and it’s not being reported here.”