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Stylist’s Women of the Year 2017: The businesswoman who took Brexit to court

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Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett
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Gina Miller, 52, is a campaigner for transparency who brought about the court case arguing that the British government did not have the authority to implement Brexit without approval from parliament. Following an appeal, the Supreme Court ruled in her favour in January this year. Throughout the Brexit process, she has continued to advocate for transparency and honesty.

“I’m holding the government to account. They thought they were above the law, so I made sure our constitution wasn’t rolled back 400 years to a time when kings and queens could bypass parliament. To me, it’s such an obvious question I didn’t see the enormity of it. If nobody else was going to ask it, then I would. 

I didn’t see it as particularly courageous because I’ve always been the sort of person who asks difficult questions; it’s just who I am. It wasn’t about politics.

We live in a country where fear is stopping people from speaking out. I miscalculated hugely. I thought that if I was brave enough to step up and be a symbol of what I was doing, then others would join. What I didn’t realise was the backlash that I got would make people more fearful. It is very difficult when you’re trying to be reasoned and people throw hatred at you or tar you with things that are not true. I’ve had to become brave.

Two things I’ve learned through 2017 are how strong I am and that I can rise above things – that I can stay calm in the face of adversity and act with grace. I won’t be bullied.”

Gina Miller outside the Brexit appeal case was heard at the Supreme Court, January 2017

“If I were a white male I wouldn’t have been treated this way. The majority of threats I have had are about inciting sexual and racial violence. They were threatening my children, saying that I was going to be the next Jo Cox, that they’d throw acid in my face, all to get me into a place where I’d be too frightened to carry on. But the more they bullied me, the more it made me stronger.

One positive letter is worth so much more than all the hatred. There was one from a little girl, who had read that I am crazy about comic books, so she made me my own superhero badge that said, ‘Because when you came on TV, my mum stopped crying.’ I revisit these things, when I do feel like crying.

I think we’ll look back at this as a moment of collective madness. It’s intangible, but something has fundamentally changed. But I’m a very hopeful person, I do think we’ll go back to where we were, but it might have to get worse before it gets better.”

To celebrate the best in people, Stylist photographed and interviewed 10 heroic women – just a few of the many who served to inspire us all in 2017. To see the rest of our Women of the Year 2017, click here.

Photography: Mark Harrison. Additional images: Rex Features.